Community unites to support restoration of Australia’s oldest Greek Orthodox church

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Walking towards Saint Sophia (Wisdom of God) Cathedral in Paddington, Sydney on Sunday, June 23, I was instantly drawn by the tantalising scent of lamb and chicken souvla.

Looking around for the location of the scent, I spotted a proud group of more than 12 men standing around a barbeque sharing jokes and chatting. Whilst a Divine Liturgy took place inside the church to mark the feast of Pentecost, this group of friends was preparing to feed the masses a Greek feast to raise funds for the Church of the Holy Trinity (Aghia Triada) in Surry Hills, Sydney.

aghia triada fundraiser st sophia
All photos copyright The Greek Herald / Andriana Simos.

Founded in 1898 by the Comino brothers, Aghia Triada is the oldest Greek Orthodox church in Australia and the Southern Hemisphere. It has been given State Heritage Status by the New South Wales Government, and is managed by the Greek Orthodox Community of NSW (GOCNSW).

The Board of the GOCNSW in conjunction with the Holy Trinity Restoration Committee, launched the 125th Anniversary Restoration Appeal in June 2023 with the aim of restoring the church to its former glory.

In June 2024, Aghia Triada reopened after being closed for months of extensive restoration and renovation. The fourth and final stage of renovations is set to be completed in 2024/2025 at a cost of $304,537.00 to be fundraised through cash, in-kind donations and Sunday’s fundraising barbeque.

Nick Andriotakis, a member of the Holy Trinity Restoration Committee, told The Greek Herald on Sunday that the restoration of Aghia Triada is necessary due to its historical and cultural value, as well as its significance to future generations.

“These first churches, like Aghia Triada and St Sophia, were the first ‘beat’ of the early Greek Australian community and it was these churches where people met. It was where new immigrants would socialise, get married and enjoy networking of different types,” Mr Andriotakis said.

“That’s why projects like this are so important. These churches belong to everybody. It doesn’t matter if you’re not from Kythera. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t have a grandparent involved in these churches. These churches are beyond us now. They are more significant than the Greek community that we know today… We see these churches as our cultural ancestry.”

So far, the extensive restoration project for Aghia Triada includes works such as the stabilising of the Bourke Street facade, as well as the repair and replacement of stained-glass windows panel.

A panel presentation at the front of the church on Sunday showcased this restoration work, whilst people were encouraged to donate to Aghia Triada at a nearby table manned by another member of the Holy Trinity Restoration Committee, Kathy Samios.

aghia triada fundraiser st sophia
Panel presentation showcasing the restoration work.
aghia triada fundraiser st sophia
Kathy Samios (right) at the donations table.
aghia triada fundraiser st sophia

At the same time, people moved indoors for a formal update on the project. Emcee Chris Skiladellis kicked off the official proceedings, with speeches by the Consul General of Greece in Sydney, Yannis Mallikourtis, the Vice President of the GOCNSW, Nia Karteris, and the Chair of the Holy Trinity Restoration Committee, John Comino. Bishop Iakovos of Miletoupolis was also present.

Members of the Holy Trinity Restoration Committee with GOCNSW members, the Consul General, the parish priest and Bishop Iakovos.
Nia Karteris.
Yannis Mallikourtis.
John Comino.
aghia triada fundraiser st sophia
Nick Andriotakis (left) receiving an award from Nia Karteris.

In her speech, Ms Karteris congratulated everyone on their restoration efforts and said it was important to never forget the history of Aghia Triada and its connection to early Greek Australian history.

The Consul General stressed that it was important to protect the heritage of Aghia Triada because it was like a “memory bank” for many who had memories of getting married or christened there.

Mr Comino, who is a descendent of the founders of Aghia Triada, spoke last and gave an update on the restoration project. He stressed that there’s been delays, but he is pleased the church has now reopened to the public. Further restorations are planned for this year.

At the conclusion of these official speeches – which also involved a gift presentation to Mr Andriotakis for his significant support of the project – everyone moved outdoors to enjoy the delicious barbeque cooked by volunteers all morning.

If you want to make a donation to the restoration appeal, you can contact: Alkis Dracopoulos, General Manager GOC (02) 9740 6022 or by email manager@goc.com.au; John Comino, Coordinator by email johnc@cominodaniels.com.au; or Kathy Samios, 0410 491849 by email samios@live.com.au.

*All photos copyright The Greek Herald / Andriana Simos.

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