|Buildings constructed during the days of the Second World War arent often considered historic but St. Josaphat Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral had barely marked its 35th year of operation when it was declared a Provincial Historic Resource in 1983. Such is the architectural and historical distinction of the grand place of worship, at 10825 97th Street.|
Constructed between 1939 and 1947, the cathedral is a showcase of grand Byzantine influence, with elements of Roman, American Colonial and Renaissance schools of design. With its seven domes, superb brick craftsmanship, grandiose entrance stairway and glorious religious paintings, St. Josaphat is one of Edmontons most recognizable and architecturally unique churches.
Plans for the church were announced in 1938 by Rev. Sozont Dydyk, the spiritual father and founder of the Ukrainian Catholic community in Edmonton and the builder of the 1904 church on the same site. The Edmonton congregation commissioned Rev. Phillip Ruh, an Oblate who had converted to the Byzantine rite, to design a monumental church.
Ruh designed more than 30 other Ukrainian churches across Canada, but few resonate better with the spirit of craftsmanship and attention to detail. It has been called one of the finest examples of Ukrainian church architecture on the continent.
A description in the provinces Historical Driving Tour of Ukrainian Churches in East Central Alberta notes that Ruhs design, while finding inspiration in traditional Ukrainian church architecture, actually heralded a new style called Prairie Cathedral. The cornices and drums supporting the domes are of Roman influence, the cupolas are Renaissance and the eight modified Tuscan columns that support the entrance portico are American Colonial.
The pamphlet goes on to note that Ruh originally environed a higher church. But plans were changed because the large interior space would have been costly to heat and the height of the church would have interfered with a flight path for the municipal airport.
In keeping with Byzantine tradition, the building was erected in the form of a cross with seven octagonal copper cupolas, each topped with a cross. They symbolize the Seven Sacraments and the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Only the largest, which signifies Christ as head of the church, is open.
The final cost was more than $250,000, although contribution of thousands of hours of time by parishioners and citizens reduced the cash outlay to about $150,000. The church was declared a cathedral in 1948.
As dazzling as the structure was in the days after its dedication, work yet to come was what really put it into the stratosphere of exceptional achievement. Professor Julian Bucmaniuk, hailed as one of the most outstanding Ukrainian mural artists of this century, spent five years painstakingly decorating the expansive interior.
Bucmaniuk, with help from his son, used tempera (powdered pigments, eggs, milk, linseed oil and carbonic acid) to adorn the walls and ceilings with richly coloured murals and frescoes. The Baroque-style paintings portray major events in the life of Christ, the Mother of God, Apostles and the Saints.
He used parishioners as models for the saints and a young priest as a model for Christ. The dominant colours are blue for heaven and serenity, and yellow for brightness and tranquillity.
In 1967, Bucmaniuk began work on an iconostas but was only able to complete the icon of the Mother of God in the lower corner before his death. Parasia Iwanec, a former student of Bucmaniuks, painted five icons on the lower portions and the small icons on the royal and deacons doors. Ivan Denysenko painted the icons in the upper portion and completed the iconostas.
The cathedral was declared a provincial historical resource in 1983, making it one of the youngest buildings ever so designated in Alberta. The next year, a $100,000 restoration and cleaning was launched, giving the building a new lease on life.
The rejuvenation of the cathedral promises to keep alive a tradition in this part of the Boyle McCauley neighbourhood that began more than 100 years ago. The earliest churches in what came to be known as Church Street, but which is now called 96th Street, included St. Barbara's Orthodox, consecrated in 1902 in a two-storey house, at 10105 96 Street.
With the coming of the streetcar, the church was replaced by a wooden structure, used until 1958. The present copper domed building, officially opened August 8th, 1959, was named St. Barbara's Russian Cathedral.
One of the oldest surviving original places of worship along the street is the Mustard Seed Street Church, built in 1911 as the Central Baptist Church. Over the years, the wood framed structure at 10635 96 Street has also served as a western dining and dancing club. It is now a Baptist street ministry and retains many of the original design features, including the boiler which was converted from steam engine duty in 1911.
Construction of the Eglise Immaculee Conception (Church of Immaculate Conception) began in 1906 at 10830 96 Street. Built in French Canadian Gothic Revival style, the original exterior was red brick with stone accents. In the years since, the outside walls have been clad with stucco. Much of the central tower, wooden belfry and spire are believed to be original.
When Sacred Heart Catholic Church was built in 1913 at 10821 96 Street, its 130-foot north tower was the highest spire in the city. When it opened on Christmas Day 1913, there was room for 1,000 parishioners. Some of the structure's defining characteristics include the two-tower plan and the centre stained glass window with its pointed arch on the west face.
These wooden and brick places of worship are historic treasures, but they cannot compete on sheer scale with St. Josaphat. Fifty-seven years after it opened its doors, it still dazzles with ornate brilliance, ingenuity and sophistication.
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