Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 14, 2008
St. George slew a fierce dragon, defended the faith
Ukrainians arriving in Saskatoon in 1910 refurbished St. George's Roman Catholic Church
St. George – April 23
- WCR photo by Ted Fitzgerald
St. George's Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral, Saskatoon, is visited by Ukrainian and Roman Catholic clergy alike.
By TED FITZGERALD
Special to the WCR
Within eight years of the arrival of settlers from Ukraine to the Saskatoon area, Ukrainian Catholics had pooled their resources to acquire a building in 1918 to serve as their own place of worship.
This recycled former Roman Catholic church, re-dedicated to familiar St. George, was then replaced in 1943 with a substantial masonry structure that in eight years became the Cathedral of the Eparchy of Saskatoon and now also serves a parish of some 850 people.
Their patron, George, was a national choice for a determined people establishing themselves in a new world.
Veneration of the saint goes back to early Church times, particularly in the east where he is acclaimed as St. George the Victory Bearer.
Although little is known of the saint's early life, he is believed to have suffered martyrdom during early Roman persecutions. He later achieved a reputation as a defender of the faith, sometimes portrayed in art on horseback killing a fierce dragon.
He was the patron of the crusaders and his banner is part of the tradition of Georgia, England, the City of Montreal and the Red Cross.
Saskatoon, the metropolis on the South Saskatchewan River, began as a post office in 1884, named for the useful berries abundant there.
Settlers from Ukraine first arrived in the area in 1910 and began to plan for a church of their own. The original, recycled St. George's was modified to conform to Ukrainian church specifications, which included the addition of a small dome.
Work on a replacement for the well-used little wooden structure began, supported by a series of dedicated pastors, in 1937 when plans for an impressive multi-domed church were submitted by Father Philip Ruh, noted Prairie church architect.
Construction began in 1939 under the direction of equally well-known master builder Michael Yanchynsky, with the physical assistance of parishioners and pastors Fathers Michael Pelech and Walter Firman.
A brick and concrete construction, St. George's faces west on Ave. M South in the city and is a seven-domed edifice with a ground plan in the form of a cross.
The domes rest on octagonal drums and are capped by miniature domes and metal crosses.
Much of the decoration of the cathedral interior was done between 1950 and 1968 by noted artist Theodore Baran, his first project in Canada.
The main dome interior is outstanding, with eight angels peering down towards the people.
Pendentives, the triangular areas at the base of the central dome at the transept crossing, carry the images of the four evangelists, a tradition in many eastern churches.
The impressive iconostasis, the screen that separates the sanctuary and clergy from the people, is relatively new since there was a problem with a design to fulfill the complex traditional formula for its dimensions. It is a highlight of the interior, the culmination of work by Baran as a millennium year project in 1988.
Today, St. George's has an active parish agenda with daily Divine Liturgy celebrated.
Populate with prelates
Historian and author Anna Maria Baran notes that up to at least 1977, St. George's had been visited by every Ukrainian Catholic bishop in the world.
The cathedral has maintained close relationships with the Roman Catholic clergy in Saskatoon and has regularly been the object of visits by Catholic and other Church officials from outside Saskatchewan.
According to curator Judy Jurdyga, the popular Mus‚e Ukrainia Museum, until recently situated adjacent to the cathedral, will move into a new and modern facility in the near future.