The historic city of St. Augustine, Florida, is home to an exquisite Greek Orthodox shrine that honors the first permanent Greek settlement in North America.
It’s easy to walk right by the unassuming exterior of this shrine in the middle of a bustling tourist area in St. Augustine, Florida. But don’t be fooled—this is a must-see site for any spiritual traveler, even if you’re not Greek Orthodox. Once you’re inside St. Photios Greek Orthodox National Shrine, you’ll be dazzled by its beautiful iconography and calmed by its serene atmosphere.
The shrine is dedicated to the memory of an early Greek colony in the Southeast. In 1768, about 500 Greeks landed in St. Augustine, took on fresh supplies, and headed south to live in a colony called New Smyrna. After ten tragic and difficult years, the survivors sought refuge in St. Augustine. There they made this house, known as the Casa Alvero, their center for worship.
This is the first national shrine created by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in America. In addition to honoring the first Greek settlers on the continent, it celebrates succeeding generations of immigrants from Greece, Minorca, Corsica and Italy who came to this nation to build better lives for themselves.
St. Photios Chapel is an exquisite sacred space whose walls and ceiling are covered with magnificent Byzantine icons. They were painted by iconographer George Filippakis, assisted by his father Constantine and his brother John. The chapel is named after Photios the Great, who served as Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople in the ninth century.
The shrine is an educational center as well as a place for worship and prayer. Exhibits here detail the history of the New Smyrna Colony and give information about the Greek Orthodox Church in America. A well-stocked store sells books and religious items.
After touring the shrine, be sure to explore the rest of St. Augustine, which is the oldest continually occupied city in the United States. Beautiful historic buildings line its streets. The city is also home to The Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche at Mission Nombre de Dios.
St. Photios Greek Orthodox National Shrine is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm.
Lori Erickson is one of America’s top travel writers specializing in spiritual journeys. She’s the author of The Soul of the Family Tree, Near the Exit and Holy Rover. Her website Spiritual Travels features holy sites around the world.Share This!