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Cathedral History

St. Andrew’s Russian Orthodox Cathedral was founded in 1897. It is the oldest Orthodox Christian Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

At the end of the 19th and in the beginning of the 20th centuries, immigrants from the Russian and Austro-Hungarian Empires arrived in the United States. They founded ethnic communities throughout the country. The centers of those communities were newly-built temples of God.

Our Cathedral started as the St. Andrew’s Brotherhood that helped immigrants economically and spiritually. The Brotherhood increased and gained strength with the arrival in Philadelphia of representatives of the Russian Imperial Fleet, in 1898. At that time, a Philadelphian shipbuilding company, Cramp & Sons, received a large contract from the Russian government to build two battleships: a first rank cruiser, “Variag,” and an armor-clad, “Retvizan.”

Russian naval officers and sailors, who arrived in Philadelphia, participated actively not only in the inspection of the ships’ construction, but also in the life of the Russian community. They naturally merged with the first parishioners of our Cathedral, made generous private financial contributions, and donated beautiful sacred Icons. The Cathedral’s Royal Gates and the Altar are still decorated with Icons donated by the “Retvizan” crew.

In 1902, bishop Tikhon, the future Patriarch-Confessor of Moscow and of all Russia, consecrated our Cathedral. Fr. Alexander Hotovitsky, who was martyred during the years of Stalin’s terror, celebrated the first Divine Liturgy in our parish.

During its history, St. Andrew’s Russian Orthodox Cathedral has experienced bad and good times. There were days when the Cathedral stood almost empty, partly because the neighborhood had changed: the Russian-speaking families moved to North-East Philadelphia and Philadelphia’s suburbs. Just a few of the loyal parishioners kept the Cathedral alive.

Today our Cathedral is experiencing a renaissance period. Several generations of Orthodox Christians from Russia, former Soviet Republics, and Eastern European countries gather in it. With open hearts, they come to the Cathedral in order to unite in the great mystery of the Divine Liturgy.


St. Andrew’s Russian Orthodox Cathedral will always be the heart and soul of the Russian community in Philadelphia.


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