Friday, 12 June 2015

Cuba: Agios Nikolaos Greek Orthodox Church, Havana

On our first day in Havana I was feeling overwhelmed.  I'm an English country girl and this city was fabulously exciting but kind of brutal too - very hot, humid, noisy and dusty.  To come, by chance, across the Agios Nikolaos Greek Orthodox Church with its quiet, shady garden was salvation for a bombarded soul.

The church feels like a secret, and I've noticed people asking how to find it on travel forums.  It is tucked behind another church, the Church of Saint Francis of Assisi (Basilica Menor de San Francisco de Asis) which is on the Plaza de San Francisco.  Take a look at a picture of the square below:
See the trees at the end of the church?  The Greek Orthodox Church is hidden amongst them and you will find the entrance into the garden on that bottom corner of the square.  There is a sign.

Agios Nikolaos Church is modern, built in 2004 to serve Havana's small orthodox christian community.

Inside the atmosphere is reverential but also welcoming.  It feels like a place to pause and reflect, whatever your religious beliefs.  The same is true of the small garden.  It is a place to simply 'be'. Within it, under the canopy of the trees, all is calm. Beyond it, all is hectic.  

You can wander or sit and rest for as long as you like.  And you'll be in good company.  The statuary invites you to relax with it.

Mother Theresa sits reading the bible, and her meditative state encouraged me to decide I would come back to the garden with my own book (I was reading Elizabeth Gilbert's 'Eat, Pray, Love' at the time) if I needed some respite from the busy streets.  

I didn't return.  I got used to the heat and the excitement of Havana swept me along for the next three weeks.  But I knew this sanctuary waited for me.  It is a gem of a place.    

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