Our History

The heart of Miami's Greek Orthodox community since 1927.

Saint Sophia, the Greek Orthodox cathedral for the Southeast Florida district, is a vibrant, Christ-centered parish in the heart of Miami that provides for the sacramental needs of Orthodox Christians in the community and offers a host of outreach ministries. It also has a long history of religious, social, and cultural involvement in South Florida.

Many of the Greeks who arrived in the United States during the great wave of immigration in the early 1900s eventually found their way to Florida. Some came to Miami because they heard of the warm climate and of citrus fruit growing in the winter. Henry Flagler’s railroad reached Miami in 1896 and had made travel easier. These immigrants came, liked what they saw, and brought their families here. A Greek community began to emerge in Miami.

The Greeks needed a Church where they could worship, and where Greek Orthodox religion, language, customs, and culture could be taught to their children. However, before they could purchase property, Church services were held at various locations. The Trinity Episcopal Cathedral on Biscayne Bay at 464 NE 16th Street, Miami, at one time generously offered the Greek community the temporary use of its elegant Church for services.

On November 15, 1925, the first group of Greeks met at the home of Stavros Petros to legally establish a Greek Orthodox community. Without hesitation, they pledged funds at this meeting, and a temporary committee was named to draft a constitution and find a suitable Church. In the following two years, under the chairmanship and leadership of I.G. Delyanis, the Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Community was organized into a functional entity. Finally in 1927, a constitution was adopted, and an election of the first parish council was held with Achileas Zapetis elected as its first president.

A small Church was eventually purchased at 1501 NE 1st Avenue, which served the needs of the community for the next twenty years. During these twenty years, both the parishioners and community suffered in the Great Depression, but the Church steadily grew and matured with the beautiful city of Miami. The Greek School and Ladies Philoptochos were established in the 1930s, serving the young people and other members of the parish.

To meet the needs of a growing community, a major decision was made in 1941 to purchase a new site and construct a new Church and community center. Under the chairmanship of President John Colozoff, a committee was formed, which jointly and severally assumed this responsibility and purchased the land where the beautiful cathedral now stands. The services of a young architect, Chrystoforos Kantianis, were retained to design and supervise construction of the Byzantine Church and a community center, which was to house an auditorium/gymnasium and several classrooms.

The cornerstone of the new Church was laid at last on March 7, 1948, with His Grace Bishop Germanos officiating. On August 15, 1949, during the AHEPA national convention, the first Church services were held with His Eminence Archbishop Michael as celebrant, assisted by Father Demosthenes Mekras. The community center building was completed in 1952 under the presidency of another great leader and benefactor, George D. Karnegis, for whom the community center would be named in 1994. Later, the interior of the Church was completed with the installation of imported marble and mosaic icons as well as beautiful iconography created by Stelios Maris in the Byzantine design, making Saint Sophia one of the most beautiful and impressive Greek Orthodox Churches in the United States. A major highlight in the history of the Church was the consecration of Saint Sophia Cathedral with the relics of Saints Andrew, Nestor, and Haralambos by His Eminence Archbishop Iakovos on November 25, 1973.

Since its founding in 1927, the Saint Sophia community has been blessed with the service of twelve priests. The very first priest was Father Chrysanthos Kaplanis, followed by Father Karapiperis, Father Daniel Scarpas, Father Germanos Papapanagiotou, Father Tjomanis, and Father George Thalassitis. Father Methodios Phousianis then assumed the pastorate at Saint Sophia from 1939 to 1945, during the height of the planning phase of the new Cathedral.

In 1944, Father Demosthenes J. Mekras came to Miami where he served as Deacon for one year before his ordination to the priesthood in 1945. In 1946, he assumed the spiritual leadership of the congregation. At the time, there were only four Greek Orthodox parishes in all of Florida. During his 43 years at Saint Sophia, many of the Churches on the East Coast of Florida were established. In the early years of his tenure though, Father Mekras ministered to an Orthodox population covering almost half the state, from points south of Tarpon Springs and Jacksonville all the way to and including the Caribbean! Father Mekras served continuously at Saint Sophia with piety, wisdom, and dedication until his retirement in 1986.

Saint Sophia was then blessed to have Father George Neofotistos, a respected religious educator and counselor and former Director of Saint Basil Academy, serve as Dean of the Cathedral from 1986 until his retirement in 1993. This was followed by Father George Economou and Father Maximus Moses. Since 1997, Saint Sophia welcomed Father Stavroforos Mamaies, whose spiritual presence continued that of his predecessors. In 2012 Father Spiro D. Bobotas was assigned as the latest spiritual leader of the community.

Saint Sophia Cathedral has grown with its surrounding community. It is a Church blessed with many bicultural families, including many who are Greek, Hispanic, Russian, Serbian, Romanian, Bulgarian, and more. All of these families serve to enhance the parish’s diversity and affirm the universality of the Orthodox faith. Tapping into the richness of all cultural traditions and the respective emphasis on both faith and family has proven valuable in maintaining a close-knit and invigorated community.

With God’s help and our Orthodox Faith, Saint Sophia Cathedral will continue to provide sacramental needs and spiritual guidance to all who seek God’s blessings.

Saint Sophia is here to provide sacramental needs and spiritual guidance to any and all who seek God’s blessings.

Saint Sophia Candles

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