St. Theodosius Orthodox Cathedral Fire Restoration Campaign

Donate to St. Theodosius Church’s Fire Restoration Campaign

A special report by The Tremonster

On Sunday, June 2, the congregation of the St. Theodosius Orthodox Christian Cathedral gathered for services on the grounds of St. Theodosius Cemetery, near the intersection of Biddulph Ave. and Ridge Rd. After the event-sized tent quickly filled to capacity, an overflow of parishioners stood outside the tent entrance holding umbrellas to shelter themselves from the rain.

“It reminded me of difficult moments when I was at the Cleveland Clinic as a chaplain and family would gather around the bed of their family member,” said Father Jan Cizmar, St. Theodosius Priest. “They could, of course, do nothing, but they want to be together as a family. You know these moments when you’re sitting and waiting to hear what the doctors will tell you. In our case, what structural engineers and professionals will tell us we’ll do with the church. We really can do nothing in this case. But we want to be together, support each other, and pray. God is the one who is in charge.”

St. Theo’s congregation needed to pull together the makeshift Sunday service after a fire on May 28 spread under the iconic copper domes, rendering their 112-year-old house of worship inaccessible.

“We can’t say anything for sure, since [the St. Theo fire is] under investigation by insurance companies,” said Father Jan. “It definitely started from the roof. At the same time as it started, we had workers on the roof. They have been working on the roof restoration, I believe, since October.”

When it comes to damaged iconic Cleveland landmarks, it isn’t like insurance companies can simply replace them with a new one. Father Jan explained, “We are a national historical landmark, and every single piece of craftsmanship is very unique. Whether it is iconography, plaster restoration, woodwork, roofing, copper work, [the insurance] will not be enough to cover the whole cost of the restoration.” Father Jan gave an example: “There’s a chandelier from Czechoslovakia from 1952, Bohemian glass, that is almost completely destroyed. It is seven or eight feet tall. [Because the church is] a national historical landmark, we have to use the original Bohemian crystal glass. The cathedral is a piece of art. For us, it’s a house of God. For Tremont, it’s a pearl of architecture and beauty and will have to be restored to its original form and quality. Right after everything happened, we had Whitney Stained Glass Studio, we had people for the chandelier, we had people from construction, we had all kinds of professionals. They gave us their estimates, insights, which are reaching far beyond what we can possibly afford.”

St. Theo has set a $2,000,000 goal for its fire restoration fundraising campaign.

According to Father Jan, “If we [reach our goal], we will use it for the chandelier restoration and for the plaster work. We do not know if it’ll be enough to cover physical restoration. But again, we are thankful for every single donation, whether it is $5 or $5,000.”

At press time, the copper plating was being removed from the main St. Theo dome to prepare to take it down. Father Jan explained, “Because the main dome is structurally compromised at two points at the base and under the crown—especially from the west side along St. Tikhon Ave., near Wine & Design—it has to be taken down. God forbid, if it crashed down, it could do significant damage to the cathedral. There is also a medium-sized dome that is tilting and is compromised. We call it ‘Evangelist Dome’ because we have four medium-sized domes representing four evangelists.”

Father Jan has been moved by the outpouring of support from St. Theo’s Tremont neighborhood.

“There was great support from the community. And I have to say that Tremont is, in a very good sense, like a little village,” he said. “When we had the fire, many neighbors came. Many neighbors sent us a text via Google Business, emailed me, texted me, left me a message. Lucky’s Cafe was very kind to start a collection for us.”

Lucky’s Café Chef-Owner Heather Haviland confirmed: “Hopefully we will have T-shirts printed by June 7. We’re just finishing up the design.” she added, “We are praying that we have them by the weekend. The T-shirts say: ‘Save Tremont’s Cathedral.’ The shirt design features a beautiful pencil drawing of the cathedral, which I think father told me was an original drawing from before the church was built. We’ll have those for sale (Lucky’s is going to pay for the T-shirts and the printing, so a hundred percent of the sale of the shirt will go directly to the church).”

Heather said Lucky’s is accepting donations to save St. Theo. “Typically, year-round, we collect for the Cleveland food bank, but right now we are switching over to collecting for the cathedral at our dining tables. People can round up their check, they can donate however much they want, and there’s also a box on the front counter.”

Heather requested, “Please let Tremonsters know they can donate at Lucky’s, but they don’t have to be a customer—they can come in and say, ‘This is for them.’”

Father Jan commented About St. Theo’s relationship with Lucky’s Café: “Very nice people. You know how many people every Sunday tell me they just went to Lucky’s for coffee and breakfast? I, myself, have been there a zillion times.”

When we thanked Father Jan for giving us a portion of his busy day for a long form interview with The Tremonster, he used the opportunity instead to thank us. “Thank you so much for your support,” he said. “We are incredibly, incredibly thankful for your support and for your love.” To donate to the St. Theodosius fire restoration fund, visit Lucky’s Café [777 Starkweather Ave.] or go to

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