Thursday, January 18, 2007

The (Rusyn) Russian Orthodox Church in Jersey City

On Wednesday, featured "An Overflowing Bounty of Beauty," the latest entry in the series of architecture columns by John Gomez. The article presents SS. Peter and Paul Russian Orthodox Church (109 Grand Street) in Jersey City, which has recently undergone some renovation.

Gomez writes:

“The proud parish, readying for its centennial, prepares to look back on the origins of its own story, which began in 1889 when three Slavs - Wasyl Krynicki, Andrej Cislak and Paul Stupinski - established the ‘Sts. Peter and Paul Kranken Unterstutzung Verein of Jersey City,’ a civic and religious ‘brotherhood’ set up to assist Slavic immigrants.”

But those three Slavs were not just Slavs – they were Carpatho-Rusyns. Lemkos, to be precise.

In any case, the church has a long and storied history. After its founding by Lemko Rusyns, it was led by Archpriest
Alexander Hotovitsky, a Russian, who was canonized in 1994 as “Missionary to North America and New-Martyr of Russia” (he was killed by the Bolsheviks late in the 1930s after years of persecution). Hotovitsky lived and worked in and around New York from 1895 to 1914, based out of the then-newly-founded St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox parish. He is remembered as a major force in New York City's Slavic history.

As for the building itself, it was built in 1853 as a Dutch Reformed church in the Gothic Revival style. After it was purchased by the Russian Orthodox parish in 1908, it was renovated to conform to the Orthodox community’s needs.

The interior was painted floor to ceiling by Photius Bodasiak, an iconographer from Kyiv, who completed the more than 70s murals that cover the internal walls in just three years, from 1924-1927. On the exterior, onion dome cupolas and Orthodox crosses were added, which were the focus of the recent restoration efforts.

(Photo from

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