May 2, 2016
St. Sava Orthodox Church Ravaged by Easter Fire
We are heartbroken, along with the entire NoMad community, at news of the destructive fire at the beloved Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Sava.
The fire started in the cathedral on Sunday night at just before 7:00 p.m. Fortunately, the space was empty of parishioners, because earlier in the day over 700 congregants celebrated Orthodox Easter services at St. Sava. The timing of the fire on Easter so soon after a joyful celebration makes the loss even more difficult to grapple with.
When the fire broke out, a caretaker entered the cathedral but was forced back out by the flames and suffered from minor smoke inhalation. The four-alarm blaze that followed was so intense that over 170 firefighters responded, four of whom suffered injuries. The flames, which roared up to the sky through the cathedral windows, moved quickly and continued long into the early hours of Monday morning.
As of this writing, the cause of the fire is under investigation, and both 25th and 26th Streets remained closed until the integrity of the churches outer walls, which are intact, can be assessed.
Reverend Djokan Majstorovic, the spiritual leader of St. Sava, told the Associated Press, “This church brought everyone together, because although there are Serbian churches in New Jersey, this is like the only one in New York. This is absolutely horrible. Absolutely horrible. My heart is completely broken.”
St. Sava is the second oldest Slavic Orthodox church in the world and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The building was designed by noted architect Richard Upjohn in English Gothic Revival style. It was consecrated in 1855 and was originally an Episcopal Church, serving the wealthy community that lived around Madison Square Park at the time. It is not only architecturally significant, but was the site of many historic events, including the wedding of famous author Edith Wharton. The space transitioned to serving the Serbian Orthodox parish in 1942.
While St. Sava was meaningful to the entire NoMad community as a beautiful landmark and touchstone though the decades, it most importantly was the heart of the Serbian Orthodox community — a place where they came together to celebrate personal life events and community celebrations. We hope that the St. Sava parish finds peace amid this tragedy and that they will be able to restore this touchstone of their community and ours.