Images used by permission of the Seattle Museum of History and Industry © MOHAI Seattle 2009


World War I was long over but the Russian Revolution was still burning in the people’s minds and hearts. The Great Depression was devastating world economies and most people were striving to create a new beginning. The people of the Russian Diaspora were seeking new homes whether temporary or permanent and here, in Seattle, a small group of uncompromising émigrés formed a coalition for the purpose of building what Russians always built upon settling a new region, a new church. This was the founding moment of what became the beacon of Russian Orthodoxy and culture for the next seventy-five years in the northwest corner of the contiguous United States.

The St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church, as it was then called, was founded in 1932 by Russian immigrants, many of whom were naval officers under the tsar, who fled the scourge of Bolshevism. With the blessing of his Eminence Archbishop Tikhon of San Francisco and Western American, they formed a Russian Orthodox community, bought land and built a church. The community was first served by visiting priests from San Francisco and Los Angeles and later by the first rector Very Reverend Archpriest Michael Nikolaevsky. After the untimely death of Fr. Michael another Fr. Michael was appointed as rector, the Very Reverend Archpriest Michael Danilchik. It was during the tenure of Fr. Michael Danilchik that the church was built.

The newly constructed church was consecrated by Archbishop Tikhon of Western America on December 19, 1937, dedicated to St. Nicholas the Wonderworker of Myra in Lycia and designated as a memorial to the martyred Tsar Nicholas II, his Royal Family and all the Russian soldiers and people who died defending their faith, tsar and country.

More Russian Orthodox faithful settled in Seattle after escaping the Japanese occupation in Manchuria in the 1930’s and the Soviet Union’s devastation during World War II. After the turmoil of World War II, the émigré community grew with refugees from both Europe and Asia. World War II "DP" (Displaced Persons) camps were full of Russians in Germany. After Communism spread to China in 1947, many Russians who had resettled in Shanghai, Harbin, and other Chinese cities, were forced again to flee economic and political hardships. Many were rescued from refugee camps on the island of Tubabao in the Philippines by the efforts of St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco. (St. John served at St. Nicholas Cathedral often and reposed here in 1966. The room where he reposed is now a small chapel dedicated to his memory ). (Visit OrthodoxPhotos.com to see photos of Archbishop John (Maximovitch) of Western America and San Francisco.)

From the 1990’s, following glasnost and the fall of the iron curtain, a new influx of émigrés has joined the parish and found and continues to find a new spiritual home here.

In the early 1960’s, Bishop Nektary was decreed the first Vicar Bishop of Seattle and the church now became designated as a cathedral. From 1992 Bishop Kyrill held this position until 2001 when Archbishop Kyrill became the Archbishop of San Francisco and the Western American Diocese. Our Cathedral has been blessed by the service of many wonderful priests, including Mitred Archpriest Andrew Nachonetchny and Protopresbyter Konstantin Tivetsky, Priest Serafim Gascoigne. Currently, the rector is Right Reverend Bishop Theodosy, Dean - Archpriest Alexei Kotar who also is the Dean of the Northwest parishes. We have had temporary interim priests; of note are Protopresbyter Elias Wen (after Fr. Michael Danilchik) and Archimandrite Anastassy (before Fr. Alexei). We have been visited by Russian Orthodox dignitaries such as Metropolitans Anastassy and Philaret, Bishop Savva of Edmonton, Archbishop Anthony of San Francisco and our recently deceased first hierarch - Metropolitan Laurus, among many others. The Cathedral has hosted several significant church wide events over its history including: the annual Russian Orthodox Choir Musician's Conference (twice in the past ten years), the semi-annual clergy conference of the Western American Diocese and co-hosted the newly established St. Herman’s West Youth Conference.

St. Nicholas is one of the oldest parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia in the United States and we try to keep the spirit of our forebears, the founding fathers of our church, alive. Although they were a political emigration, the raison d’être of their work was clearly specified in the by-laws of the parish where they identified the purpose of the parish as:

Mutual help among the members united in the common faith in Jesus Christ in reaching a common Christian goal of Salvation through the medium of community prayers, rituals, and rules established by the Church. (Parish By-laws dated 1/24/35)

May their memory be eternal and through their prayers and the intercessions of St. Nicholas, St John of Shanghai and San Francisco, the Holy Royal Martyrs and Russian and of St Spiridon of Tremithous (whom we consider the patron saint of this city) may the Cathedral flourish as a beacon of Orthodoxy for many years to come.