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'A pearl hidden in Winnipeg'

Ukrainian Catholic cathedral renovated for upcoming celebrations

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A magnificent North End cathedral has been undergoing extensive restorations in preparation for several major upcoming celebrations.

The Ukrainian Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral of Sts. Vladimir and Olga not only celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, the stronghold of the Ukrainian community will also host the world synod of Ukrainian Catholic bishops in 2012.

"All Ukrainian Catholic bishops from Ukraine and from outside Ukraine, from the diaspora, will be assembling here in Winnipeg in September 2012," says Rt. Rev. Msgr. Michael Buyachok.

"It is also the year that we are celebrating the arrival, the 100th anniversary of the first Ukrainian Catholic bishop, Blessed Martyr Nykyta Budka."

Renovations have been made to the cathedral's exterior and restoration work is continuing on the cathedral's interior, with its famous stained glass windows by Winnipeg's renowned artist Leo Mol and its mural paintings by other well-known artists.

"It is a pearl hidden in Winnipeg," Buyachok says of the cathedral at the corner of Stella Avenue and McGregor Street. "We get quite a good turnout -- about 300 people -- at the Doors Open Winnipeg event, and many say they didn't even know that this was here."

The cathedral was designed by architect John N. Semmens in 1948. It was officially dedicated in 1951 and seats more than 1,000 people.

The current renovations on the exterior are done. The stairs were rebuilt, the weeping tile repaired and a wheelchair ramp added to the side.

"We completely renewed our chapel, which is now being dedicated to Bishop Nykyta Budka, and we will be getting four stained-glass windows for the chapel," says Buyachok.

Ihor Drahun, an accomplished artist from Ukraine who now lives in Winnipeg, is designing the windows and working on the interior restoration.

One of the most striking features of the long rectangular cathedral, 60 metres in length, is its 34 beautiful stained-glass windows.

The large upper windows that line either side of the nave, where the congregation sits, were done by Mol. An enormous undertaking, they tell the story of Christianity in Ukraine and were completed in 1972.

Twelve of Mol's windows focus on major moments in Ukrainian Christianity and two depict the most important Christian feast days, the resurrection and the birth of Jesus Christ. Ukrainian cathedrals, saints, kings, women and children appear in scene after scene, encircled by waves of brilliant blue, purple and gold. Two more windows by Mol sit high up in the sanctuary.

A rose stained-glass window, the work of Meikle Studio of Toronto, sits above the main entrance, with the figure of Christ in the centre surrounded by Christian symbols. A window depicting Sts. Vladimir and Olga, the patrons of the cathedral, was also designed by Meikle Studios. Both were installed in 1951.

A series of lower windows along the walls of the nave display Ukrainian cathedrals and coats of arms.

The walls between the windows are filled with richly coloured mural paintings of Biblical scenes, historic Ukrainian figures and saints done by Sviatoslaw Hordynsky of New York. R. Pachowsky and I. Wolaniuk, also from the United States, assisted him, as did local Winnipeg artist Roman Kowal.

The elaborate golden iconostasis or icon screen wall in front of the sanctuary was carved by Serhij Lytwynenko and the many icons contained there were created by Hordynsky. Even the 18-metre-high ceiling is covered with a celestial bright blue and adorned with angels.

Restoration on the right wall of the nave has been completed, says Buyachok, while work on the opposite wall is continuing.

Various organizations and people who are interested in Byzantine art and architecture often request tours of the cathedral, Buyachok said.

The 60th anniversary will be celebrated by a divine liturgy at the cathedral on Sunday, Oct. 16, and by a banquet at Canad Inns Garden City.

Tickets are available by calling the parish office at 589-5025.

Seminars and workshops on the life and history of Bishop Budka will run throughout 2012.


If you have a story idea about a special place of worship email

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 8, 2011 J13

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