Prolific (and often controversial) Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava attended a “ground blessing” ceremony this past weekend for his latest project, the $38 million reconstruction of the Saint Nicholas National Shrine in Lower Manhattan. The Greek Orthodox church was destroyed in the 9/11 attacks and now, at the hands of Calatrava, will be rebuilt near its original location at 130 Liberty Street overlooking the National September 11 Memorial park.

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Various local figures attended the ceremony along with an audience of 1,500 spectators. The service was given by Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America who highlighted the significance of the symbolic shrine’s reconstruction.

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“This ground blessing was a fantastic opportunity for members of the Greek Orthodox community, as well as those watching around the world, to celebrate the beginning of the historic rebuilding of Saint Nicholas. Standing there, only a hundred feet from the site of the original church and overlooking the spectacular memorials, one can truly feel God’s presence with us today,” said Father Evagoras Constantinides, Spokesman of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.

Calatrava also addressed the crowd as he explained his vision for the design, which is heavily inspired by Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia and the Church of the Holy Savior. “It is my hope that, for generations to come, the Saint Nicholas church will serve as a house of prayer, love, peace and a place for reconciliation,” he said.

The project is scheduled for completion in 2016.

+ Santiago Calatrava