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Key Number: HS 30826
Site Name: St. Josaphat's Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral
Other Names:
Site Type: 1603 - Religious: Church, Cathedral or Chapel


ATS Legal Description:
Twp Rge Mer
52 24 4

Address: 10825 - 97 Street
Number: 25
Street: 97
Avenue: 108
Town: Edmonton
Near Town:


Type Number Date View


Style: Ukrainian-Canadian Church Style
Plan Shape: Cruciform
Storeys: Storeys: 1
Foundation: Basement/Foundation Wall Material: Concrete
Superstructure: Nailed Frame
Superstructure Cover:
Roof Structure: Medium Gable
Roof Cover:
Exterior Codes: Wall Design and Detail: Column or Engaged Column
Roof Trim - Eaves: Projecting Eaves
Towers, Steeples and Domes: Dome
Chimney Stack Material: Brick
Window - Special Types: Semi-Circular
Main Porch - Type: Open Porch
Exterior: Domes, columns. Projecting eaves and verges, decorated soffit, and fascia, interior brick chimney, open porch with shaped door trim, datestone, numerous semi-circular windows located on all four facades.
Octagonal cupolas with domes; entry colonnade; inset cross motif in brick; arched windows.
Seven cupolas and an entrance portico supported by eight modified Tuscan columns.
1939 corner stone.
Interior: Bright tempera frescos on the walls and domes; frescoes are painted in baroque style with neo-byzantine influences; a large chandelier hangs on the hemispheric ceiling of the large dome - other domes are simply decorative. Choir loft, benches, 3 tiered iconostas, various murals and depictions throughout, various indications of Ukrainianization, even in representation of God on main dome. Original painted surfaces; very ornate intact interior. In 1968 - addition of an elaborate iconostasis. Extensive murals decarate the barrel vault and dome inside the church. MURALS-FRESCOES The interior design of the Byzantine Ukrainian Catholic Church is designed to speak to the worshippers, to establish the mood for worship, to preach the Gospel through architecture and icons, to elevate one's mind and heart to God. Sanctuary Focal point: Jesus Christ, the King of Glory and Divine Teacher, the Beginning and the End of all. Lamb on the rock: from which seven streams flow - symbolizes the seven Sacraments. The Lamb: symbol of Christ; and of innocence. Apostles: Peter holding the keys; Andrew and Thomas holding the instruments of their martyrdom. Centre of the ceiling: a painting of St. Josaphat - patron saint of the cathedral. Dove: Holy Spirit. Fish: symbol of Christ. The Greek word for 'fish' is an acronym formed from the initial letters of the Greek words: Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour. Lily: purity. Rose: St. Josaphat's crest. Symbolizes the Mother of God to whom he was deeply devoted. Triangle: The Holy Trinity. Grapes and wheat: The Holy Eucharist. Anchor: symbol of hope. Harp: represents in this context royal descent; Mary, Mother of Jesus, was a descendant of King David. Also, and mainly, symbolic of King David's praises of God as sung in the Book of Psalms. Sunflower: humility and obedience. The attention of a Christian should always be on Jesus Christ just as the sunflower faces the sun from sunrise to sunset. Periwinkle: youth, fidelity. Trident: martyrdom, victory, and glory. The Nave On the ceiling of the nave are the following frescoes: - The crucifixion. - Christ's resurrection. - The Mother of God depicted in the traditional Ukrainian Pokrov (Protection) style, with an omophorion in her hands. - On the north and south walls of the nave are murals of several Basilian priests who served in the parish. THE DOME The dome or cupola symbolizes Unity: One God - One Lord Jesus Christ - One Church. Christ - head of the Church. On the ceiling is a mural of the all-powerful Creator. Below are murals of four Old Testament prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel; and for religious symbols: the phoenix, the pelican, a seven-branched candelabrum, and a ship at sea. ISAIAH with a hot ember near his lips is the symbol of the Eucharistic purification (Isaiah 6:5-7). JEREMIAH with a wooden yoke on his shoulders is a symbol of obedience to the will of God (Jeremiah 28:14). EZEKIEL against a background of skulls is the symbol of death and resurrection (Ezekiel 37:1-10). DANIEL with a lion is the symbol of unwavering faith and complete confidence in God in the midst of danger. The PROPHETS represent continuity between the Old and New Testaments. The CANDELABRUM used during rituals in Jewish temples symbolizes the Old Testament (Exodus 25:31-40). The SHIP symbolizes the Catholic Church which conveys the faithful across the sea of life. The PHOENIX is symbol of immortality and resurrection. In Greek mythlogy, the phoenix at the end of its life burns up and out of ashes regenerates again. PELICAN is a symbol of Christ's sacrifice of flesh and blood for the salvation of mankind; also emblematic of the Eucharisic Christ. In religious symbolism the pelican tears its breast to feed its young with blood. Below, in the four triangular spaces are murals of the four Evangelists: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The inscription in old church slavonic reads: LET US PRAY AND GIVE PRAISE TO THE LORD OUR GOD. LEFT WING TRANSEPT Frescoes in this area depict major events in the life of Mary, the Mother of Jesus: * the Annunciation, * the betrothal of Mary and Joseph, * the nativity of Christ, * the meeting (presentation) of our Lord. * The Dormition (Uspennya) of the Mother of God is painted on the ceiling between the nave and the transept. Below the Dormition is a scene of Edmonton showing the original St. Josaphat's church. In the left extended transept, on the north wall, the Last Judgement is depicted. RIGHT WING TRANSEPT The frescoes in this area are: * the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, * Christ's entry into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday), * the Transfiguration of Jesus on Mount Tabor. On the ceiling is St. Basil the Great, one of the foremost Fathers of the Church. The pillar of fire is the emblem of the Basilian Order. Above the baptism scene appears the town of Mundare, Alberta, the cradle of Basilian monasticism in North America. In the right extended transept are murals of the first Ukrainian Christian rulers: Prince St. Volodymyr who made Ukraine officially a Christian nation in the year 988. His grandmother, St. Olha (ruled in Kiev 945-964) was the first Christian monarch in Ukraine. In 1988 the Millennium of Christianity in Rus-Ukraine was celebrated. To commemorate this event, S. Makarenko, an artist, was commissioned to do mosaic works of art of Prince St. Volodymyr and St. Olha. The two mosaic pieces were placed on the front right and left side of the nave in 1986. In the extended transept to the right of St. Volodymyr is St. Anthony Pecherskyj and to the left of St. Olha is Theodozy Pecherskyj - saintly early Christian monks and teachers in Ukraine. The church of St. Sophia and the Dormition church of the Pecherskyj (Cave) Monastery of Kiev appear among the saints at the bottom of the mural. In the arc above is St. Nicholas. On one side of him is Christ, and on the other, the Mother of God. Below them is St. Peter's Basilica in Rome and St. Sophia of Constantinople (now Istanbul). This mural shows that St. Nicholas was a link betwen the Eastern Church and the Western Church. On the adjacent west wall is a mural of St. George. In 303 A.D., St. George, a captain in the Roman army, defied the Emperor's orders to persecute Christians. Persecution is symbolized by the dragon; the persecuted Christians by the woman dressed in white.
Environment: Neighbourhood: McCauley The Cathedral is located in a former residential neighbourhood which has recently been yielding to the expanding central core of downtown Edmonton. Adjacent parking lot, consistory, urban setting, situated in a small, enclosed churchyard on corner lot, smattering of bushes and trees, varied socio-economic infrastructure. Cathedral; church complex covers large site and is a neighbourhood landmark.
Condition: Good. 24 November 1987. The building site is very well maintained and provides favourable drainage away from the structure.
Alterations: By 1913 the orignal 1904 structure had become too small for the congregation and it was expanded to double its original size. Two additional cupolas were constructed at the front entrance, with one serving as a belfry. A choir-loft was added as well. In 1968 - addition of an elaborate iconostasis to the 1939 church. New terrazzo front and side steps; new entry doors.


Construction: Construction Date:
Construction Started
Construction completed
Construction started
Construction completed
Usage: Usage Date:
Ukrainian Church
Ukrainian Cathedral
Owner: Owner Date:
Ukrainian Catholic Episcopal Corp.
Architect: Reverend Philip Ruh
Builder: Phillip Ruh
Craftsman: N/A
History: S. Dydyk, first parish priest. Parish founded and church built by the Basilians themselves. The first church on the above site was built in 1904. It was expanded to twice its original size in 1913. Interior of church completed by Y. Yanishewsky. In 1939 construction of the present structure began and was completed in 1944, at which time the old building was demolished. All labour was done and donated by the parishioners. Only the architect, Phillip Ruh, and foreman were paid. On March 3, 1948, this church was designated as the cathedral for Ukrainian Catholics in the Provinces of Alberta and British Columbia. The task of painting the interior of the cathedral was undertaken by one of the most outstanding Ukrainian mural artists - Julian Bucmaniuk. This monumental artistic work was accomplished in the years 1950 to 1955. ***** St. Josaphat's Ukrainian Catholic Parish in Edmonton was established in 1904 by Rev Sozont Dydyk, OSBM, one of the first Ukrainian Catholic missionaries in West Canada. As the number of parishioners increased, the original structure of the Church was enlarged in 1913, and served the Ukrainian Catholic community of Edmonton for the following 26 years. Rev. Sozont Dydyk served the parish until 1923 and was succeeded by Rev. Basil Ladyka, OSBM, who began plans for further expansion of the parish church. In 1929 Rev. Basil Ladyka was appointed Bishop of Canada and Rev. Sozont Dydyk returned as parish priest whereupon he continued with expansion plans. Under the supervision of Rev. Philip Ruh, an architect, construction of the present building began in 1939. In keeping with the Byzantine Rite, the brick building was erected in the form of a cross with seven cupolas, the largest reaching the height of 100 feet. The cupolas symbolze the Seven Sacraments and the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit. The interior is divided into three main parts: the vestibule (entrance), the nave (main body), and the sanctuary (the altar area). The main structure was completed in 1947 and the solemn dedication of the church took place on June 3, 1947, with His Eminence Eugene Cardinal Tisserant of Rome officiating, assisted by the Most Rev. Neil Savaryn and many clergy. When the Most Rev. Neil Savaryn was appointed the first Ukrainian Catholic Bishop for Alberta and British Columbia in 1948, St. Josaphat's Church was raised to the status of a cathedral by the Holy See. In 1951 Julian Bucmaniuk, and his son, undertook the painting of the interior of the new cathedral using tempera which consisted of grumbacher powder, eggs, milk, linseed oil and carbonic acid. They covered the walls and ceilings of St. Josaphat's with richly colored murals and frescoes. The paintings portray major events of the life of Christ, the Mother of God, Apostles and Saints. In 1968 St. Josaphat's Cathedral was enhanced with the construction of an iconostas, a wooden screen or wall covered with icons that portray the life of Christ including parts of the Old Testament. The icon of the Mother of God in the lower portion of the iconostas is the only work of Julian Bucmaniuk, because of his untimely death in 1967 he was unable to complete the iconostas. A former student of his, Parascevia Ivanec, painted five icons on the lower portion of the iconostas and the small icons on the Royal Doors. L. Denysenko, an artist, painted the icons in the upper portion and completed the iconostas in its entirety. In 1984 the cathedral was declared a historical site by Mary LeMessurier, Minister of Alberta Culture. *** The most striking feature in the Byzantine Church is the iconostas which is symbolic of the temple veil in the Old Testament. The iconostas is a large screen or wall that separates the altar from the nave of the church. It consists of four rows of icons. The bottom row has three doors. The large double doors in the middle are called Royal Doors because Christ enters through them symbolically and actually in the Sacrament of Holy Communion as the priest brings the precious Body and Blood to the congregation. They remind us that Christ alone is the Door leading to communion with the Father: 'No one comes to the Father, but by Me' (John 14:6). One of the icons on the Royal Doors depicts the Annunciation, reminding us that Christ's coming, that is, the Incarnation, is the gateway that admits us to the sanctuary of God's presence. The four other icons are those of the Evangelists, the writers of the four Gospels. The two doors on either side of the Royal Doors are icons of Christ, the Teacher, and of the Mother of God. To the extreme right is the icon of the patron saint of the cathedral, St. Josaphat, and to the extreme left is St. Nicholas. Immediately above the Royal Doors, in the second row, is the icon of the Last Supper. To the right are six icons depicting the major feasts of the Mother of God and to the left the major feasts of Christ. These serve as a visual Gospel to worshippers. The central part of the third row has a large icon of Christ, as the centre of history, and on both sides are the twelve apostles who first brought the Gospel of Christ to the world. The fourth row shows us the prophets of the Old Testament; they were the great leaders of the Jewish people before the coming of Christ. At the very top is Christ crucified; the price He paid for our salvation. Each icon in the iconostas has its proper place according to a definite theological scheme that is used for inspiration and instruction. Christ used His physical body to communicate to man, so the Church uses icons to make God known to man. *** Archbishop Josaphat Kuncevych was born in 1580 in Volodymyr-Volynskyj, Ukraine, to Gabriel and Marianna Kuncevych. At the age of 24 years he became a Basilian monk and devoted himself to a life of sanctity. He fulfilled his duties as a monk and later as a dedicated priest, master of novices, superior and archimandrite. On November 12, 1617, he was consecrated bishop. On January 9, 1618, he arrived in Polotsk to assist Archbishop Brolnytsky. Upon the Archbishop's death, Bishop Josaphat succeeded him as archbishop. On November 12, 1623, Archbishop Josaphat died a martyr. In 1867 Pope Pius IX proclaimed Josaphat a Saint. From that time on the whole Catholic world honors him as a martyr for unity. In 1963, when the schema on unity of Christians was being discussed at the Vatican II Council, Pope Paul VI, assisted by many cardinals, bishops and the entire Ukrainian hierarchy of 19 bishops, unveiled the sacred relics of St. Josaphat which are now preserved within the altar of St. Basil the Great in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. We take pride in the fact that one of our Ukrainian sons won the palm of martyrdom because of his deep love for God and his people. *** The Ukrainian Catholic Women's League of Canada, Arts and Crafts Museum was established by a resolution passed at the Eparchial Convention in 1952. At the start the collection was housed at the Bishop's palace on Ada Boulevard. In 1973 it was moved to its permanent location in the lower level of St. Josaphat's Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral. *** The first St. Josaphat Ukrainian Catholic Church was built on this site in 1904 by the Basilians and dedicated that year on the 27th of November, the Feast of St. Josaphat. It was a small, wood-frame building with a cruciform plan, a single entrance, and a single large dome. By 1913, St. Josaphat's was too small, and renovations were carried out which doubled the size of the church. Despite these efforts, the church was again too small by 1938, and it was decided that an entirely new building was needed. Construction on the new St. Josaphat church was begun in 1939 according to plans by Reverend Phillip Ruh. Ironically, Reverend Ruh was neither of Ukrainian origin nor a Basilian. Rather, he was a Belgian Oblate who had transferred the to Byzantine rite. Completed in 1944, the church was designated a cathedral in 1948 when Edmonton was made the seat of a newly-formed Ukrainian Catholic Exarchate. Although St. Josaphat's cost about $250,000 to build, only $150,000 was actually spent, the rest being contributed in the form of volunteer time and labour. St. Josaphat's is the only example in Alberta of Reverend Ruh's 'Prairie Cathedrals'. Built following a cruciform plan, the Cathedral has seven cupolas and an entrance portico supported by eight modified Tuscan columns. The proportions of the church do not emphasize the vertical to the extent originally envisioned by Ruh because the large interior space created would have been excessively costly to heat and because the cupolas crowning the church would have interfered with the flight-path of planes landing at the Municipal Airport. Extensive murals decorate the barrel vault and dome inside the church. Professor J. Bucmaniuk undertook the decoration of the church between 1950 and 1955. He included a scene of the Last Judgment, which depicts Stalin and Hitler among the damned and he and his mother among those ascending to heaven. The Baroque effect achieved by the rich decoration of the interior, which was enhanced in 1968 by the addition of an elaborate iconostasis, and the exterior scheme of the architectural design undoubtedly created the effect desired by Reverend Ruh. St. Josaphat's Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral was one of Ruh's last large-scale churches. It remains essentially unchanged and was declared a Provincial Historic Resource in 1983. * * * BUILDING/SITE DESCRIPTION : The site is part of a block of land purchased by the Oblate Fathers for Ukrainian Catholics in Edmonton in 1902. Eighteen lots of the original thirty eight were purchased for the construction of the first St. Josephat's Church. The present structure is a large cruciform shaped structure complying with the styles of Byzantine architecture with the apse located to the east, and crowned by one main cupola surrounded by six additional smaller cupolas. The entranceway is highlighted by a long and wide staircase culminating at a portico extending the full width of the facade and supported by eight columns. HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE: St. Josephat's Church was for many years the only Ukrainian Catholic parish in Edmonton. Founded by the first Basilian Fathers to come to Alberta, the first church building was constructed in 1904. It was enlarged in 1913, and continued to serve the Ukrainian Catholics of Edmonton until 1944. A second structure was built from 1939 to 1944 in commemoration of the 950th anniversary of the acceptance of Christianity in Ukraine. Since 1948, the church has served as the cathedral for the Ukrainian Catholic Exarchate of Edmonton. ARCHITECTURAL SIGNIFICANCE : Reverend P. Ruh began to construct churches of the same type as St. Josephat's as early as 1924. They are typified by a grandiose presentation of Byzantine architecture, highlighting a cruciform plan, an imposing height created by many decorative cupolas dominated by one main open cupola, and a majestic entrance portico supported by columns. Built from 1939 to 1944, St. Josephat's Cathedral is the only such example of Reverend Ruh's 'prairie cathedrals' in Alberta. Additions to the interior of the building over the years, in the form of traditional Byzantine wall frescoes and liturgically-correct accessories have served to complement the original Byzantine-based design of the structure. * * * DRAFT PRESS RELEASE St. Josephat's Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral, Edmonton has been declared a Provicial Historic Resource, announced the Honourable Mary J. LeMessurier Minister of Culture. St. Josephat's was for many years the only Ukrainian Catholic parish in Edmonton. Founded by the Basilian Fathers, the first parish church was constructed in 1904, enlarged in 1913, and remained to serve the city's Ukrainian Catholic population until 1944. The present St. Josephat's was built between 1939 to 1944 in commemoration of the 950th anniversary of the acceptance of Christianity in Ukraine. Since 1948, the church has served as the cathedral for the Ukrainian Catholic Exarchate of Edmonton. St. Josephat's was designed by Rev. Philip Ruh, O.M.I., not of Ukrainian origin himself, but a prolific and important figure in the development of Ukrainian religious architecture in Canada. St. Josephat's is the sole example of Ruh's 'prairie cathedrals' in Alberta. Additions to the interior of the building over the years, in the form of traditional Byzantine wall frescoes and liturgical trappings have served to complement the original Byzantile design of the structure. The owners of this Provincial Historic Resource must obtain the approval of the Minister of Culture before any alterations are made to this site. * * * ST. JOSAPHAT'S CATHEDRAL (1943) Ornate Place of Worship St. Josaphat's Cathedral is among Alberta's youngest historic buildings. The seven-domed Ukrainian Catholic church wasn't completed until 1943. Normally, a building must by at least 50 years old to be designated a Provincial Historic Resource but, in 1983, Albertra Culture made an exception for the church largely because of its architecture. St. Josaphat's is considered Alberta's best example of the Prairie Cathedral architectural style developed by Reverend Philip Ruh. Additionally, the church is regarded as one of the most ornate places of worship in the province. While the cathedral is not the largest Ukrainian Catholic church in the city, the brown-brick building is distinguished by its imposing architecture and the unique colorful tempera religious frescos decorating the interior. The cathedral replaced another church named after St. Josaphat - the only Ukrainian saint. The original church was built in 1904 on the same site under Reverend Sozont Dydyk, whose dream was to build a monumental church in Edmonton. When construction began the parish had only $13,000 in funds. Volunteer labor was largely employed and it took four years to complete the church at a cost of $250,000. Ruh, who studied architecture before becoming a priest, came to Canada in 1911. He first did missionary work among the Ukrainian immigrants who settled in northern Alberta. Ruh, who died in 1962, designed about 30 other churches including the Holy Trinity Ukrainian Catholic Church northwest of Leduc. Most of his designs were for churches in Alberta, as well as a monastery in Mundare. St. Josaphat's was designed as a traditional Ukrainian Catholic Church, with the sanctuary located at the east end - a repudiation of the pagan tradition of installing the apse at the west end. Ruh's design incorporated a number of architectural styles. Cornices on part of the facade and the drum supporting the domes are of the Roman Style. The cupolas are of Renaissance style, while the columns in front of the facade are in a pseudo-classic style. Only the largest dome, which signifies Christ as head of the church, is open. The others are simply decorative and have no religious significance. Among the interior highlights are the bright tempera frescos on the walls and domes. The paintings were completed over five years in the 1950s by the late Julian Bucmaniuk who came to Canada in 1950 after teaching at several European art schools. He also designed the elaborate iconostasis separating the tabernacle area from the church proper. The frescos are painted in the Baroque Style with neo-Byzantine influences, using tempera prepared by Bucmaniuk. The dominant colors are blue for heaven and serenity, and yellow for brightness and tranquility. The artist used parishioners as models for the saints and prophet and a young priest as a model for Christ. He painted the faces of Hitler, Lenin, Stalin and Khruschev into Hell, and himself into Heaven in his rendition of Judgment Day. However, Ukrainian Catholic Bishop Demetrius Greschuk did not appreciate Bucmaniuk's artistic licence, saying that only the Lord can judge. A large chandelier descends from Bucmaniuk's painting, God the Father, on the hemispheric ceiling of the large dome. The painting originally inspired so much dread that it had to be toned down.


Status: Status Date:
Designation Status: Designation Date:
Municipal A List
Provincial Historic Resource

Register: A75
Record Information: Record Information Date:
Tatiana Gilev 2003/09/03


Alberta Register of Historic Places: 4665-0517
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