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Saint Augustine, FL
In March 1768, 1,403 colonists, including approximately 500 Greeks, sailed from Minorca to Florida. On June 26, 1768, the first Greeks and Minorcans arrived in Saint Augustine. In July 1777, the remaining colonists abandoned the settlement and moved north to Saint Augustine. There they gathered in the structure known as the “Avero House” (the Saint Photios Greek Orthodox National Shrine) and made it their place for prayer, worship and fellowship. These pioneers comprised the first permanent settlement of Greeks on the continent. In the 1960s, there was a revival of interest by local Saint Augustine Greeks to preserve memory of that first colony — the “Founders”: George and Olga Fotiou, James and Stella Kalivas, Steve and Gerry Sarris, Tom and Despina Xynidis, and Spiros and Martha Zepatos. In March 1966, the Avero House was purchased by the Archdiocese, and a proposed Chapel for the first National Greek Orthodox Shrine in America was given the name of Saint Photios. The restoration and construction started in 1978, and was completed in 1979.
The Saint Photios Greek Orthodox National Shrine is the one Archdiocesan Institution created under the omophorion of His Eminence Archbishop Iakovos. His Grace Bishop Dimitrios of Xanthos was appointed as the Shrine’s first Executive Director in 1982. As the only National Shrine of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in America, over a million people have visited this historic site and have experienced in a small way the treasures of our Orthodox Faith and Hellenic Heritage. The Saint Photios Greek Orthodox National Shrine throughout its history has been referred to in many poetic and descriptive ways. The municipality of Saint Augustine, Florida, refers to Saint Photios National Shrine as “The Jewel of Saint George Street.” It has been referred to as “Our Plymouth Rock,” for it is historically recognized as the sacred ground where our ancestors first stepped foot in the New World. We call the Shrine, “Our Ellis Island,” for it is on the Wall of Tribute our families and communities are held in memorial. The Saint Photios National Shrine stands in testimony and honor of those Greek Orthodox pioneers who came to this New Land.
The Saint Photios Greek Orthodox National Shrine is a living memorial to the first Greek settlers on the American continent and to all the Greek Orthodox pioneers whose love of freedom and desire for a better life for themselves and their children brought them to this New World. Like the patron saint of the Saint Photios National Shrine, Saint Photios the Great – a ninth century Patriarch of Constantinople – the Shrine is called to be a steadfast beacon to the faithful, maintaining and perpetuating our Orthodox Faith and Hellenic Heritage; to project Orthodox Christianity to all who pass through its historic doors; and to communicate the Gospel of Christ.
The Shrine is a self-supported Orthodox institution thanks to the generosity of its benefactors and friends. Through active witness, more of the Greek Orthodox faithful will learn about the National Shrine and be more inclined to visit, and offer their prayers and financial support. Our hope is to continue creating awareness of the Saint Photios Shrine; to make it a symbol of hope that provides spiritual and cultural witness to the faithful of the Church and to the many visitors that pass through this special and historical site.
The Saint Photios National Shrine Annual Pilgrimage celebrates the feast of our patron, Saint Photios the Great Patriarch of Constantinople, on the weekend closest to February 6. The Annual Greek Landing Day Celebration commemorates the landing of the first Greek colony to the New World on or about June 26, with both Liturgical and Cultural Festivities.
To visit the shrine's website, please click here.