Australia’s Greek Orthodox Church is planning a massive $27.5 million redevelopment of its archdiocese in Sydney, restoring its 1848 heritage cathedral and building a new theological college and museum.
With a growing congregation and a surprising rise, over the COVID-19 pandemic, in the number of students wanting to study Hellenic religion, traditions and culture, the church is hoping to raise funds for the project from donations.
“We are very excited about developing the church not just to be a spiritual centre but also a cultural and social centre,” said Bishop Emilianos, the chancellor of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia. “This project is ambitious and might take us 20 years to accomplish but we have some very generous people who support us, and the whole community knows how important it is.”
The first stage of the works will be the conservation and rejuvenation of the Edmund Blacket-designed sandstone Cathedral of The Annunciation of Our Lady Theotokos on Redfern’s Cleveland Street. Formerly an Anglican church, it’s internationally recognised as the centre of Greek Orthodoxy in Australia, and the spiritual heart of the 400,000 people with Greek ancestry in the country, and the nearly 100,000 born in Greece.
Alongside that will be the development of the new college next to the old. It currently has 85 students of all ages who study full-time or part-time. Its numbers are expected to grow by 35 per cent over the next year, with the curriculum being expanded to introduce new courses in modern and ancient Greek language, and counselling.
Qantas Loyalty chief financial officer Kimon Giannopoulos, 35, started studying theology part-time at the college three years ago. When his son was born in 2017 he was very sick, and Giannopoulos felt a pull back to the church to look for answers, and to add a new dimension to his work and home life.
“It’s a wonderful spiritual hub that’s uplifting for the community and is iconic for the whole city,” said the father of two now-healthy children. His own father came to Australia at 40 days old, while his mother was Melbourne-born.
“I was born here and am part of Australian culture, but learning here about Christian heritage mixed with Orthodox culture has really added value to my life. You can use what you’ve learnt in everyday life to enrich your spiritual development and solve the challenges you face.”
Together with fellow student John Varipatis, he founded the Orthodox Cafe in the grounds for people to come together in a relaxed space to socialise and, regularly, to discuss the meaning of life.
It’s hoped the first raft of works will be finished by March 2024, in time to celebrate the church’s centenary in Australia. The second stage of the project will be the refurbishment of the heritage-listed St Paul’s Rectory with its administration area, including the college library and a shop.
The third and final phase will be the addition of community facilities, with a new outdoor forecourt at the cathedral’s northern exit for people to gather after events. This will lead into a hall which can be used for both college and public lectures, and a reception space. There will also be an ecclesiastical and cultural museum that will be open to everyone.
The masterplan has been designed by award-winning Australian-Greek architect Angelo Candalepas of Candalepas Associates, who has worked on religious institutions including St Mary’s Cathedral in the city and the Punchbowl Mosque.
“The cathedral is a magnificent sandstone building and is the grandfather of the precinct, while the other buildings will be the grandchildren with the same DNA and beautiful disposition,” Candalepas said. “The buildings are cultural landmarks and have the power to bring communities closer together.”
The archdiocese hopes the premises will attract anyone interested in Greek culture and traditions, irrespective of faith and origin.
“We’re already getting professionals, like doctors and lawyers, coming to study here to deepen their understanding, “ said Dr Philip Kariatlis, sub-dean of St Andrew’s Theological College. “The Greek Orthodox heritage isn’t something that belongs to us alone. We are simply the holders of a tradition that goes back in time to Christ and we welcome everyone with open arms for all to share.”
Keep up with Commercial Real Estate news.
Keep up with Commercial Real Estate news.