The Alexandria Church dates back to the fifth century before Christ. It is one of the many monasteries established by the Apostle John the Baptist. A short trip down the streets of ancient Alexandria will be able to give an idea as to its vast importance as a center of learning for many Christian teachers. For those that would like to know more about the background of this cathedral, there is an informative website available.
What makes this church of the Holy Apostles attractive to visitors is its beautiful location in what is considered to be the “Gilded District” of Athens, Greece. It can be seen from St. Photini’s Pillar, on the north side of the altar area, and is only a few blocks away from the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. Its location is what makes it so unique, both in time and location, compared to other churches in the area. The main sanctuary, or sacred area, of the Alexandria church consists of three naves and has two levels with a large cave at the top.
There are two main chapels in the area which house the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Piraeus. One of these houses the Holy Sepulchre, which is believed to contain the skeletal remains of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The second chapel is the St. Catherine’s Monastery, which is the oldest one of the area. While most of the services are performed in Latin, there are a few services in Greek. The St. Catherine’s Monastery is also home to several art works related to the Holy Bible, especially the frescoes of theosis.
Although St. Photini was the first Greek archimitrator to establish a holy congregation, it was the Alexandria Church which adopted the “Orthodox” name during the fifth century. The reason for this is that St. Photini was known as the Great Shepherd of the flock and many of his converts to Orthodoxy were from the Alexandria area. Although the archdiocese was created from scratch and had its own hierarchy, it was the Alexandria Diocletian who rebuilt the Basilica of St. Photini and together they established the orthodox cathedral that we know today as the Sofia Cathedral. The rebuilt structure can still be seen there as it is being renovated. A visit to this place is a must to see the beautiful architecture and to take a glimpse of the great mosaics that are part of the Orthodox tradition.
Another point of interest in the Archdiocesan area of Prince Antiparatos is the Holy Sepulcher. This massive building stands seven hundred and sixty-five feet high and was built during the odyssey era. Many Christians believe that this building holds Christ’s body and therefore it is the biggest cathedral in all of Greece. There is an underground complex where visitors can tour the catacombs that contain one of the earliest Christian burial sites dating back to around thirty-five hundred years ago.
Not to be missed is the Byzantine Bride festival which occurs in late August and early September. This popular event brings women from all parts of the country to the Holy Sepulcher to participate in the wedding of their lord. There is a great feast celebrated in the church and afterwards the bride and groom embark on a three day journey to get back to their homeland. This journey represents the journey to God and is a great time for many Orthodox Christians to be together with their families. The archbishops of Istanbul and Alexandria have also decreed a joint authority, which includes oversight and regulation of the activities of the archbishops and their affiliates in both cities.
Alexandria is known for its cultural attractions and most of the hotels and restaurants in the metro area boast Greek themed decorations. There are also a variety of clubs to enjoy and the Orthodox community is active in many of them. One of the largest being the Holy Synagogue club that is active in the philanthropic and communal aspects of the archdiocese. This is a good indication that the patriarchate may have something to contribute to the wider community in the Greek enclaves.
The Orthodox Church has adapted well to the multicultural mosaic that has been its trademark over the centuries. Many of its tithes and donations go to Africa and the Middle East where many Christians and Muslims alike live together in peace and harmony. It is a good sign that the Alexandria Archbishops has succeeded in integrating themselves into the cultural melting pot of Kenya and provisionally adjacent Tanzania as evidenced by the recent acceptance of a Greek Orthodox Metropolitan in Mombasa. It is also a positive sign that the future of Christianity in Kenya will see greater interaction not just between the Christian communities but between different sects of Islam too. This would be welcome news to the already growing number of Muslims who are gradually finding faith in Christianity despite the persecution that they have faced in the past.