The Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Sava in New York City, engulfed in flames on May 1, 2016. Photo courtesy FDNY.

Easter fire destroys New York Serbian Orthodox cathedral

(RNS) Hours after parishioners celebrated Easter, which fell on Sunday (May 1) in the Orthodox community, a fire gutted their landmark Manhattan cathedral.

"Our church has burned down last night," read the announcement the next day on the website of the Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Sava.

#FDNY members operating at 4-alarm fire at 25th & Broadway #Manhattan

A video posted by FDNY (@fdny) on

The church is the religious and cultural center for Serbians in the Greater New York area and is named for a 13th-century saint who served as the first archbishop of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

Parishioners expressed shock at the news Sunday night and Monday morning, as firefighters continued to pour water on the remains of the building -- little more than its walls and part of its roof.

The four-alarm blaze took no lives and caused no serious injuries, but sent more than 170 firefighters to the scene on West 25th Street in lower Manhattan.

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The fire has been labeled "suspicious." The term does not imply that it was intentionally set, but rather that investigators do not yet know the cause, said a spokesman for the New York City fire department.

The Gothic Revival church is a New York City landmark and was consecrated as an Episcopal church known as Trinity Chapel in 1855. Author Edith Wharton writes about Trinity Chapel, where she was married, in her novel "The Age of Innocence."

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The Serbian Orthodox church purchased the building from the Episcopal diocese in 1943 and consecrated it in 1944, according to the church's website.

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