History of the Parish

The Albanian Orthodox Church - Albanian Orthodoxy
Paraqitja e Zotit Krisht në Tempull

Orthodox Shqip-Albania

The priest Fan Noli in Marlboro in March, 1908

Priest Fan Noli in March 1908, following Divine Liturgy in Framingham, MA

Our choir in 1935: Do you recognize others? Let us know.
Front Row: 1.Annette Kondi (Fortinallis) 2, Tefta Tromara 3.Gloia Tromara
4.+Fan Noli 5.Florence Kondi(Mazza) 6. Anna Andon (Gibbs) 7.Louise Pambuku(McCann)
Middle Row: 7.Peter Chani 8.Esther Peterson 9. Margaret Peterson
10.____ 11. Ellen Chani-Kondel 12. Charles Stavro
Back Row: 13. John Paul Pano 14. Spiro Metro 15. D. Theodore 16. Leo Joseph 17. Teddy Joseph

Kostandin Kristoforidhi (1827-1895) Translator of the New Testament into
Albanian Statue in Elbasan, visited by his U.S. relatives

The 90th Anniversary Historical Trilogy by Denise Lymperis

On March 22, 1908, Theophan Stylian Noli celebrated the first Divine Liturgy in the Albanian language in the history of the Orthodox Church. "Our eyes were filled with tears," Constantine "Nini" Demo, one of our church elders would recall years later, at age 94, in relating the story of that first service at the Knights of Honor Hall in Boston. On that day, also the Sunday of Orthodoxy, the Church of St. George was established and the life of our community began.

Like other Albanian immigrants during those early years, who were mostly males, our founding fathers lived in konaks; dreary, unheated flats with groups of ten or more men sharing household duties and supporting their newfound church with their meager wages. Until 1922, when the Emerald Street church in the South End was purchased, they worshipped in various rented halls and lofts throughout the city. After services, each of them would take home icons and various other holy relics for safekeeping until the next Sunday, when they would come together to literally "build the church" anew for Divine worship.

The Hudson Incident Although the Albanians who came to America had long dreamed of establishing their own church, it was the notorious "Hudson incident" that rallied them to action and hastened Fan Noli's ordination as their spiritual leader. In 1907, a young man, Kristaq Dishnica, died in Hudson, Massachusetts of influenza. No Orthodox Church would perform the funeral rites because as an Albanian patriot, he was considered an excommunicant of the faith. And so he was laid to rest in a Worcester cemetery without any religious service. The incident aroused the ire of the Albanians in Massachusetts and Fan Noli recognized his calling as an opportunity to serve the spiritual needs of his own community and to champion the cause for religious and political freedom in Albania. He was able to garner the support of Archbishop Platon, head of the Russian Orthodox Church in the United States, who ordained him on March 18, 1908 at the Cathedral of St. Nicholas in New York City. Just one week later, he was appointed administer of the Albanian Orthodox Mission in America, and later elevated to the rank of Mitred Archmandrite.

"Liri a Vdekje" (Liberty or Death) The founding of St. George Cathedral was a pivotal event in the struggle to liberate Albania from its oppressors. Indeed, most Albanians, whether Muslim, Catholic, or Orthodox, recognized that the goal could not be accomplished without the involvement of the church. Although Albania had been under Turkish rule since 1478, its Orthodox churches were headed by the Greek Patriarchate of Constantinople. For five centuries, Albanian communicants, located mostly in the south, were not permitted to worship in their own language. It was virtually impossible to organize an independence movement in Albania because all the patriotic societies had gone underground and practically died out, on account of Turkish persecution. Although there were a few isolated patriots scattered throughout Eastern Europe and in Egypt, they felt their mission could be best accomplished through the immigrant communities in the United States. Fan Noli was selected to organize them, and in May 1906 he arrived in Jamestown, New York, where the fraternal society, "Malli i Memedheut" (Longing for the Motherland) had been formed the year before. Three months later he journeyed to Boston to work with Sotir Peci, another great pioneer of the Albanian Renaissance, who had just begun printing the first Albanian newspaper in Boston, Kombi (The Nation). During this time, several national organizations began springing up, including the Pan-American Federation, Vatra (The Hearth), which Noli headed with the preeminent literary stylist and Albanian patriot, Faik Konitza. Vatra became the most powerful organization in the Albanian Renaissance, and its newspaper, Dielli (The Sun), is still published today. Noli also traveled to Bulgaria, Romania, Russia, Italy, England, and France to help organize communities for the cause, all the while conducting services in Albanian.

On November 28, 1912, Albania was liberated after Turkey was defeated by the Balkan Allies. But during World War 1, it was overrun by foreign armies and Noli appealed to President Woodrow Wilson in Mount Vernon in July 1918 to restore its independence. He received the pledge: "I have one voice at the Paris Peace Conference and I shall use it in behalf of Albania." Wilson's success made him the most popular champion of Albanian independence. Two years later, as a delegate of Vatra, Noli was instrumental in gaining Albania's admittance to the League of Nations and in securing its modern boundaries. In 1922, the goals for the formation of the Church of Albania were set forth at the Congress of Berat, but it would take another 15 years before the Patriarchate of Constantinople would finally recognize its autocephaly. In November 1923, Noli was consecrated a bishop in Korce and named Primate of All Albania.

At this point, Noli had planned to retire from politics to devote all of his time to his diocese. But the following spring, he became involved in a peasant uprising against the Conservative, land-owning party headed by Ahmed Zog. After the revolt he served as Premier and Acting Regent of Albania, until a few months later when Zog returned from his flight into Yugoslavia at the head of a mercenary army and reinstated his rule. Noli fled to Germany on Christmas Day, 1924, intending to return to his followers in the U.S., but was unable to get an American visa and remained stranded there until 1932.

The Church Progresses in America Despite Noli's absence following the war, his church in America continued to flourish and new parishes were formed in Natick, Worcester, Philadelphia, Jamestown, and Southbridge. At St. George's, new clergy were ordained: Fr. Naum Cere, an accomplished iconographer; Fr. Damian Angeli; Fr. Vangel Chamche, who later served as a bishop in the homeland; and Fr. Koli Kristofer, the first Albanian to arrive in America. A choir was formed in 1916 by Professor Thomas Nassi, a New England Conservatory graduate. In the late 1920s, the women, who would come to play a major sustaining role in the life of the church, began to arrive in greater numbers, and formed their own societies, the Daughters of St. George and Bashkimi (Union). In 1934, the choir was reorganized, using the Hymnals prepared and translated into Albanian by Metropolitan Theophan. By this time, however, Noli faced the monumental task of translating the liturgical books and music into English to ensure the participation of the first American-born generation. Ever a visionary, he also turned his attention toward the goal of uniting all the various ethnic branches of the church in the United States into a single American Orthodox Church.

Parish Background
Saint George Cathedral was organized in March, 1908 following the first liturgy celebrated in Boston by the Reverend Father Fan Stylian Noli (later Metropolitan THEOPHAN). Under the omoforion of Metropolitan PLATON, it was the first parish to begin a missionary apostolate among the growing number of immigrants from Albanian regions who began to arrive in New England from 1886 onwards.

The Cathedral made a vibrant contribution to the homeland's national awakening in the first years of the 20th century, assisting in the formation of an Orthodox Autocephalous Church in the homeland and sponsoring the publication of liturgical books in the Albanian language for the first time.

At the same time, an equally prodigious number of choral hymnals and catechetical books in English were published from the 1930's to the present in order to meet the needs of American-born faithful served by the parish. Today, the congregation includes parishioners of many backgrounds who have embraced the Orthodox faith. Services are conducted primarily in English and Albanian.

Centrally located near downtown Boston at the intersection of major thoroughfares, the Cathedral draws faithful from over forty outlying towns which encircle the Hub, thus giving the congregation a diverse, cosmopolitan character.

It is the largest Orthodox Christian house of worship in Massachusetts. As the mother church of our diocese, the Cathedral serves as episcopal seat of His Grace, Bishop NIKON, Bishop of Boston, New England and the Albanian Archdiocese.

1908-1988 Eight Decades: An Octave of Spirit, Song and Strength
for Saint George by V.Rev. Arthur Liolin > click here

The Ninth Decade: 1989-1998 A Pastoral Homage > click here

Nente Dekada 1908-1998: Nje Uverture e Shpirtit,
Kenges dhe Fuqise Per Shen Gjergjin > kliko ketu