Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 5, 2005
Local artists beautify church
Peter Lipinski painted his icons on canvas in his Edmonton home
The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary — September 8
By TED FITZGERALD
Special to the WCR
It's the archetypical Parkland house of worship, a prominent, domed, wooden Ukrainian Catholic church, sharing several hectares with a well kept cemetery and a simple, free standing bell tower.
The area is one steeped in history, near the centre of Alberta's great turn-of-the-century settlement of new Canadians from Eastern Europe.
A black stone monument fronting the church features the image of a working combine above a text honouring Ukranian pioneers. Another stone is a memorial to founding parishioners Vasyl, Ivan and Petro Eleniak. Vasyl Eleniak and Ivan Polypiw were the first people to investigate this part of Western Canada as a destination for thousands of potential settlers.
Familiarly known as St. Mary's, the parish was established in 1901, 12 years before incorporation of the village of Chipman.
Ancient feast day
Although celebrated for centuries by the universal Church, the Nativity of the Most Holy Mother of God and Ever Virgin Mary is an even more ancient and famous feast of Our Lady in the Eastern Church.
Once a holy day of obligation, Sept. 8 is now celebrated as a semifestive office, with scriptural readings dealing appropriately with birth and predestination. A popular subject for Canadian Ukrainian churches, at least a dozen honour Mary's birth in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
In the Chipman church, partially obscured behind the iconostasis, the principle icon is a portrayal of the birth of Our Lady. Mary's parents, Sts. Ann and Joachim, are shown in reverent poses, perhaps realizing that their daughter was meant to change the course of world history.
The pleasant colours of the painting, with the midwife cradling the infant and the brightly-attired attendant, highlight the event as a festive occasion.
The parish named for the Blessed Virgin was one of the first established in Western Canada. In 1908, a church was built east of Chipman but, based on a legal precedent, it was ceded to the Russian Orthodox Church seven years later. Catholics then built a new house of God in the townsite under the direction of J. Janishewski.
It was dedicated in 1916 to the Nativity of the Mother of God.
It faces west on Chipman's main street, a block south of St. Bonaventure Roman Catholic Church, and adjacent to the old Ukrainian National Hall.
On its well-maintained, grassy site, it's a colourful, relatively large church, of traditional cruciform plan with a central silver dome-capped octagonal drum.
The classic tripartite Byzantine arrangement of porch, nave and apse are well defined.
A departure from tradition here are two silver-domed towers at the west front, a Canadian innovation. With the exception of the dome drums, the exterior wood siding is now stuccoed over.
Inside, the church was decorated by renowned artist Peter Lipinski. His icons of Christ, the Blessed Virgin and the saints were usually created on canvas at his Edmonton home in winter, with additions and other designs painted directly on the tongue-in-groove siding of the church walls.
Noteworthy are his ornamental borders, trompe-l'oeil effects and marbleization techniques.
A small, but elaborate iconostasis, the work of master craftsman Phillip Pauliuk in 1922, separates the sanctuary from the main body of the church and with decorated processional banners completes the artwork in this century-old Parkland gem.
Today, the Chipman church is a mission served from Sts. Peter and Paul parish in Mundare. Divine Liturgy is celebrated in conjunction with a traditional cemetery service once a year now at a date selected between Easter and the feast of the Ascension.