Greek Orthodoxy long served as the center of life in Greek Utah. A small church was initially built in Price, Utah in 1904 to carry out rituals of marriage, baptism, and funerals. After approximately twenty years, the Holy Trinity Cathedral was erected and later consecrated in Salt Lake City in August of 1925. It was the only Greek Orthodox cathedral in the Intermountain West during the early twentieth century and became the hub for Greeks regionwide. The West was likened unto Siberia for Greek Orthodoxy, but local newspapers hailed Salt Lake’s Orthodox Church as the “flower of the Greek clergy in America.”
The clergy played an important role in the vitality of the church in the Intermountain West. The services welcomed everyone. Priests would travel to members of their congregation that could not attend due to geography or other reasons. In addition to ministering, clergy mediated marriages and conflict. For example, during an episode of mining labor strife, one priest “climbed a Bingham Canyon mountainside to exhort Greek strikers . . . to put down their guns.” As American nationalism increased throughout the United States during World War II, the clergy also became subject to criticism. English, education, and marriage were important to the Greek community. For this reason, both Greeks and Americans were critical of the clergy. The Greek newspaper New Advocate criticized one clergyman, Father Yiannis, for only speaking Greek, doing a poor job of marrying his constituents, and for his disinterest in education. After Father Yiannis left, many Greek mothers had their babies re-baptized by the new priest that arrived from the east.
While Greek Orthodoxy responded to the cultural movements in the United States during the twentieth century, religious ceremonies and practices remained consistent. Marriage was required to take place within the church. This left many women unmarried. Funeral services reflected connections with birth and baptism. In addition, the elaborate detail on the Holy Trinity Cathedral retained Greek Orthodox symbolism. Symbols of God’s hand, seven candles and an olive branch, crowns, peacocks, and lilies can be found in the Byzantine architecture and design. A Phoenix also appears on the outside of the Cathedral, symbolizing the importance of birth, sanctification, and an ultimate resurrection.
The Holy Trinity Cathedral manifests the importance of Orthodox Theology in the West. The Holy Trinity Cathedral continues to connect the community with Greek life. Originally used as a Greek school during World War II, the basement of the Holy Trinity Cathedral has been converted into a Hellenic History Museum – it is the largest Hellenic museum west of St. Louis. The Cathedral is also involved with the Hellenic Cultural Association and the Greek Festival in downtown Salt Lake each year. For these reasons, the Holy Trinity Cathedral “is why Greeks are still a community into the fourth generation.”