July 4, 2019

10 Places in Massachusetts of Interest to Orthodox Christians

As a resident of Massachusetts, I have over the years discovered certain places that may be of interest to Orthodox Christians when visiting this great state. In the ten places listed below, I have avoided listing any Orthodox parishes or monasteries, of which Massachusetts is plentiful in. Some of these places listed below will be widely known, while others may be more obscure. Of particular note are a series of museums, in which you can be sure to find Orthodox treasures. This list is for those who want to explore Massachusetts while at the same time having an interest in seeing things associated with Orthodoxy in some way.

1. Hellenic College/Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology

Hellenic College/Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology (HCHC) is an Orthodox Christian liberal arts college and seminary in Brookline. The institution was founded in 1937 as Holy Cross Theological School in Pomfret, Connecticut. In 1946, the school was moved to Brookline, Massachusetts in a beautiful location just outside of Boston and overlooking the city. In 1966, Holy Cross expanded its undergraduate division into a full four-year liberal arts college named Hellenic College, which opened in 1968. Holy Cross became an accredited theological school and has become one of the most important institutions of the Eastern Orthodox Church in the Western Hemisphere. Three places of notable interest on campus worth visiting are the Archbishop Iakovos Library, Holy Cross Bookstore and Holy Cross Chapel.

Location: 50 Goddard Avenue in Brookline

2. Temple Ohabei Shalom

Perhaps the closest structure you will get in the United States resembling Hagia Sophia in Constantinople is the Temple Ohabei Shalom in Brookline. The Congregation Ohabei Shalom (Lovers of Peace) was founded in 1842, the longest enduring Jewish congregation in Massachusetts and the second in New England after Touro Synagogue located in Newport, Rhode Island. Before moving to their present location in Brookline in 1928, the congregation moved to Union Park Street in the heart of the South End in 1887. The Union Park structure is now home to Saint John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church. The Byzantine/Romanesque structure in Brookline was modeled on themes from Hagia Sophia and the Great Synagogue of Florence, Italy. It was designed by Boston architects, Blackall, Clapp and Whittemore. An Orthodox Christian cannot go by this structure without recalling Hagia Sophia or some other magnificent church of Constantinople.

Location: 1187 Beacon Street in Brookline

3. Museum of Fine Arts

The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston is the fifth largest museum in the United States. It contains more than 450,000 works of art, making it one of the most comprehensive collections in the Americas. With more than one million visitors a year, it is the 60th most-visited art museum in the world as of 2017. Founded in 1870, the museum moved to its current location in 1909. Recommended for Orthodox Christians is the Byzantine Art collection, which is modest in size, but you can spend hours enjoying the richness of its history.

Location: 465 Huntington Avenue in Boston

4. Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

The home which houses today’s museum was built in 1903 by Isabella Stewart Gardner (1840–1924), an American art collector, philanthropist, and patron of the arts. It is housed in a building designed to emulate a 15th-century Venetian palace, drawing particular inspiration from the Venetian Palazzo Barbaro. Upon her death her will called for her art collection be permanently exhibited "for the education and enjoyment of the public forever." The Gardner Museum is much admired for the intimate atmosphere in which its works of art are displayed and for its flower-filled courtyard. Most of the art pieces are unlabeled, and the generally low lighting is more akin to a private house than a modern art museum. Throughout the museum are various Byzantine acquisitions of Orthodox interest.

Location: 25 Evans Way in Boston

5. St. Botolph Street

Situated between the Back Bay and South End, is one of Boston's most noteworthy streets - St. Botolph Street. The reason this may be of interest to Orthodox Christians is because St. Botolph, a 7th century English monk, is the patron saint of Boston. In fact, Boston, Massachusetts received its name from Boston in Lincolnshire, on the east coast of England, which took its name from St. Botolph, where there is a large cathedral in his name. Unfortunately, in Boston, Massachusetts there are no churches dedicated to St. Botolph, though there are Orthodox icons in Boston that bear his image. Despite having no church, Boston has dedicated one of its most beautiful and charming streets to St. Botolph, and until a church is built there you can drive or walk up and down this street to commemorate St. Botolph.

6. Florovsky-Romanides House

Two of the greatest and most famous Orthodox theologians of the 20th century, Fr. George Florovsky and Fr. John Romanides, lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts at the same time in the late 1950's and early 1960's. What most people don't know is that they lived together in the same house. Fr. Florovsky lived on the first floor with his wife while Fr. Romanides lived on the second floor with his wife. It was during this time that Fr. Romanides was a student of Fr. Florovsky at nearby Harvard University, but they were also professors together at Holy Cross School of Theology in Brookline. Though the house is not open to the public, and its apartments were renovated in 2017, you can still go by and see it and imagine where some of the greatest theological works and concepts of the 20th century were conceived.

Location: 8 Forest Street in Cambridge

7. The Lowell House Bells at Harvard University

The Lowell House bells, a collection of 17 Russian bells, were given by Charles Crane as a gift to the house in 1930. The bells originally came from the Danilov Monastery in Moscow and were saved from being melted down by Stalin’s government. As a result of this gift, the design for a traditional clock tower was redesigned to incorporate a bell tower instead. In 2008 there was a carefully orchestrated bell exchange where the original bells were returned to the Danilov Monastery, and a new set — cast at the Vera Foundry in Voronezh, Russia — were installed in Lowell House. There remains a robust cultural exchange between Lowell House and the Danilov Monastery to this day. Read more about these bells here.

Location: 1201 Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge

8. The Path of St. Seraphim of Sarov

In an article I posted titled The Ascetic of Boston, it speaks of a certain Russian immigrant in the early 20th century who lived an ascetic lifestyle in the city, and he was granted visions of St. Seraphim of Sarov. The first time he saw St. Seraphim was when he emerged from the subway station at Harvard Square in Cambridge. He had gone there to sell some icons from Mount Athos and did not know where to go to find some Russians who might buy them. At a certain distance he saw an old man in full monastic habit, whom he recognized immediately as St. Seraphim. He followed the Saint along Massachusetts Avenue towards Boston, then disappeared. Another time St. Seraphim appeared to him on Tremont Street in downtown Boston, and as he followed the Saint he became exhausted and lost sight of him. By these appearances in Cambridge and Boston, St. Seraphim seems to have blessed this city.

Location: Begin at Harvard Square subway station and follow Massachusetts Avenue into Boston. From Massachusetts Avenue you can take a left onto Tremont Street into downtown Boston.

9. Museum of Russian Icons

The Museum of Russian Icons is a non-profit art museum located in Clinton, Massachusetts. The collection includes more than 1,000 Russian icons and related artifacts, making it one of the largest private collections of Russian icons outside of Russia and the largest in North America. The icons in the collection range in date from the 15th century through to the present and covers almost the entire range of Russian icon images, symbols, and forms. The Museum opened in October 2006. It began as the private collection of Gordon B. Lankton, a plastics engineer and former chairman and CEO of Nypro, Inc. As outlined in his book The Long Way Home, Lankton took a motorcycle trip around the world in 1956 and 1957, visiting, in chronological order, Germany, Austria, Italy, Yugoslavia, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, India, Ceylon, Nepal, Burma, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, Hong Kong, and Japan. According to Lankton, he had wanted to visit Russia but was not allowed to do so during the Cold War. In 1989, Lankton first traveled to Russia to open a Nypro factory there. On that visit, he learned about iconographer Alyona Knyazeva and her icon school. After meeting Knyazeva and learning more about icons, Lankton began his collection, starting with a small, poor quality icon he found at a flea market in the Izmaylovo District of Moscow. Over the following 30 years, Lankton amassed several hundred icons. He displayed them at his home, at Nypro in a small gallery, and occasionally on loan to other museums, including the Higgins Armory Museum. As the collection grew and response to the informal sharing of his collection proved positive, Lankton decided to open his own museum directly across the street from Nypro.

Location: 203 Union Street in Clinton

10. Hammond Castle Museum

Hammond Castle Museum is a unique treasure on the coast of Gloucester, Massachusetts. It was constructed between the years 1926 to 1929, by inventor John Hays Hammond, Jr. to serve as his residence. He was an inventor who was a pioneer in the study of remote control and held over four hundred patents. Its architectural style is that of a medieval castle, and was custom built to encompass his private collection of artifacts spanning from ancient Rome through the Renaissance. Tours are self-guided, and visitors may explore eight living areas, including a dining room and bedrooms, an inner courtyard, two towers and the Great Hall. Throughout the castle one will come across Byzantine icons and artifacts, including a large icon of Christ in the Great Hall.

Location: 80 Hesperus Avenue in Gloucester

Bonus Location: Gallery Byzantium

After visiting all the listed museums of Massachusetts, you may want to purchase some icons or jewelry for yourself. If so, you can travel to Gallery Byzantium. Located in the charming historical coastal New England town of Ipswich, Massachusetts, Gallery Byzantium is a small family (husband and wife) owned business that designs and handcrafts heirloom quality jewelry in the ancient Christian, Byzantine, Celtic, and Russian historical aesthetic tradition. All of their jewelry is handcrafted and designed in the United States of America of nickel free recycled gold and silver. Gallery Byzantium designs are exclusive and one of a kind.

Location: 16 Mount Pleasant Avenue in Ipswich (located on the property of St. John the Russian Orthodox Church)