St. Joseph Byzantine Church was the second church that St Joseph’s parish built on the site in the Union-Miles neighborhood. The first was built in 1913; in the early 1930s, it became a parish hall and a new structure erected next to it. By the early 1970s, the parish decided to move to Brecksville, and sold the church to Zion Baptist, which abandoned the main building a few years later.
The first time I encountered it was on a photo drive with my partner in early 2012; we were returning from Valley View up Warner Rd. and continued north on East 93rd. As we crossed Orleans Ave. on a late winter afternoon, one of those rare sunny days, we caught a glimpse of the building, lit by afternoon’s infrared-heavy glow, and with glimpses of blue sky through the empty windows. We circled back and found unblocked entry through a high doorway on the western face. I returned twice more, both times in the early morning, with pale winter sunlight streaming in. Every time I went, the atmosphere of the place was overwhelming — a mix of history, reverence and remnants of breathtaking beauty that stayed with us for hours afterward. I was also struck by the relative lack of graffiti inside and out.
This image depicts the high priest Melchizedek bringing bread and wine to Abram. Melchizedek is a complex figure who has unusual roles in a variety of religions (and their variants), and is seen as an example of an Old Testament Christophany, or manifestation of a Christ-like figure.
This image depicts the stoning of St. Stephen.
–Writing and photography by Mark Satola