Kurt's Historic Sites

Hellenic College Holy Cross Chapel


Interment LocationVisited 
Brookline, MASeptember 8, 2023 

Photographed September 8, 2023.

With guidance from a priest (by which I mean directions for parking my Honda and walking), I found the gravesite of Archbishop Iakovos, primate for 37 years of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America. On June 9, 1980, President Jimmy Carter bestowed the archbishop with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States’s highest civilian honor. The accompanying citation read, “Greek Orthodox Archbishop Iakovos has long put into practice what he has preached. As a progressive religious leader concerned with human rights and the ecumenical movement, he has marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and has met with the pope to blend two streams of religious conviction.” It concluded that, as leader of the archdiocese, “he has given guidance to millions.” Iakovos, who was once the spiritual leader of 500 parishes, is now laid to rest behind the chapel at Hellenic College Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, where the values he preached are still taught.

Upon his death in 2005, the archbishop was praised by Coretta Scott King, founder of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change. “At a time when many of the nation’s most prominent clergy were silent,” King remembered, “Archbishop Iakovos courageously supported our Freedom Movement, and marched alongside my husband, and he continued to support the nonviolent movement against poverty, racism and violence throughout his life.” The march President Carter and Mrs. King were referencing occurred on March 15, 1965. Archbishop Iakovos took part in a procession with Dr. King in Selma, Alabama, after the murder of Reverend James Reeb there by white segregationists. Serving as the voice of the Greek Orthodox Church, on that day Iakovos said of the civil rights activist Reeb, “Let his martyrdom be an inspiration and a reminder to us that there are times when we must risk everything, including life itself, for those basic American ideals of freedom, justice, and equality, without which this land cannot survive.” An image of Iakovos with King, labor leader Walter Reuther, and others mourning Reeb on the steps of the Dallas County Courthouse appeared on the cover of the March 26th issue of LIFE magazine.

Photographed September 8, 2023.
Photographed September 8, 2023.

The white stone tablet that covers the archbishop’s remains is decorated with carvings of a cross-topped crown and scepters. Intriguingly, his epitaph says that he “fell asleep” in New York; this contradicts the contemporaneous sources that indicate the former church leader died at Stamford Hospital in Stamford, Connecticut. Underneath his birth and death dates is the bible verse 2 Timothy 4:7. It reads, “I have fought the food fight/I have finished the race/I have kept the faith.” Below it is the Greek translation of the excerpt. The tablet is surrounded by a small stone border, with the intervening space filled with small rocks. A cross stands at the head of the small, chain-surrounded plot, and a red lantern is planted at the foot.

There were just three apparent burials behind the chapel of the college when I visited in September 2023. From left to right, I found Bishop Gerasimos of Abydos, Metropolitan Silas of the Diocese of New Jersey, and Archbishop Iakovos.

Photographed September 8, 2023.

Fast Facts

Born: July 29, 1911 in Agios Theodoros, Imbrose, Ottoman Empire

Primate Tenure: 1959-1996

Presidential Medal of Freedom: Awarded by Jimmy Carter (1980)

Died: April 10, 2005 in Stamford, Connecticut

Cause of Death: Pulmonary Ailment

Age: 93

Interment: Hellenic College Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, Brookline, Massachusetts

"Orthodoxy is a religion and theology that places no boundaries or barriers along the way of those who search for happiness in unity, in peace, and in justice. Orthodoxy will one day, and hopefully soon, rediscover its essential oneness and disavow hunger for power, ethnic superiority and secularism which leads it to unchurchly ambitions. Orthodoxy must definitely identify itself as a religion that leans over all people with genuine compassion and declare that its chief concern is to gather and unify all those who drifted away from Christian truth."
- Archbishop Iakovos
July 3, 1996, in his retirement remarks at the Grand Banquet of the Clergy-Laity Congress

Sources Consulted and Further Reading

Hellenic Leaders. “The images every Greek American should see on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.” Medium. January 16, 2017. https://hellenicleaders.medium.com/the-images-every-greek-american-should-see-on-martin-luther-king-jr-day-6648d6fbbbd3.

Jacobse. “FAREWELL REMARKS OF ARCHBISHOP IAKOVOS UPON HIS RETIREMENT IN 1996.” OrthodoxNetwork Blog (blog). OrthodoxyToday. April 16, 2005. https://www.orthodoxytoday.org/blog/2005/04/farewell-remarks-of-archbishop-iakovos-upon-his-retirement-in-1996/.

Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum. Collection: Office of Staff Secretary; Series: Presidential Files; Folder: 6/9/80; Container 165. Accessed online September 9, 2023. https://www.jimmycarterlibrary.gov/sites/default/files/pdf_documents/digital_library/sso/148878/165/SSO_148878_165_06.pdf.

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