While preparing to write The Lady of Tarpon Springs, I made a research trip to Tarpon Springs, Florida. During my visit, I toured the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral. The edifice was constructed in 1943, long after the setting of The Lady of Tarpon Springs. However, the cathedral stands as a monument to the Greek Orthodox Church and the sponge industry that made its construction possible. The original Greek church was constructed in 1910 and was relatively small and unable to accommodate the rapidly escalating number of Greek Orthodox residents to the area.
There was a huge boom in the sponge industry after World War II, and Nicholas G. Arfaras, owner of the largest sponge business in Tarpon Springs during that period, guaranteed the financing of the cathedral. The Greek spongers devised a plan to donate their best sponges to the cause, with the Greek sponge buyers bidding inflated prices for the St. Nicholas sponges.
The Byzantine Revival style cathedral was designed as a replica of the famed St. Sophia in Constantinople. Elaborate materials were used for the construction, including fifteen tons of Greek marble that had been exhibited at the New York World’s Fair and then was freighted to Tarpon Springs. Three huge chandeliers made from Czechoslovakian glass were imported, and sponsors donated the necessary 23 stained glass windows.
If you visit Tarpon Springs, don’t leave without a visit to the cathedral. Unfortunately, my pictures don’t do it justice.
May you find beauty as you explore God’s world.