Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 21, 2008
Trumpeting angels adorn Prairie Holy Ascension Church
Fr. Phillip Ruh designed the three-domed multi-hued shingled building
Saint – Ascension of the Lord – May 4
By TED FITZGERALD
A colourful, domed House of God enclosed by its barbed wire fence shares space with a traditional detached bell tower
Dedication of the building refers to this great annual feast, an occasion remembered by the faithful in the second decade of the Glorious Mysteries of the rosary and in the creed where "he ascended into heaven." It is celebrated on the seventh Sunday of Easter time, a week before Pentecost. Readings include "He was lifted up before their eyes" (Acts 1:8-9) and "was taken up into heaven" (Mark 16:19-20).
The Ukrainian Catholic Church is on the outskirts of the town where the Mossy River enters the south end of Canada's 11th largest lake, the 195-km long Winnipegosis. A post office was established here in 1898, a year before the arrival of the railway. The town is 50 km north of Dauphin on provincial highway 20.
One of the most colourful churches anywhere, Ascension was designed by noted Father Philip Ruh who, since his arrival in Canada in 1913, had already built some dozen Prairie houses of God. He was assisted by the parishioners and frequent associate master builder Michael Sawchuk when construction began in 1927.
The church is of common Ruh eclectic design - cross-shaped in plain view, with a large central dome and two domed "Canadian" front towers. Domes and roofs are a brilliant red and towers and drums are trimmed in gold.
It is hard to believe that this colourful building could have been even more dramatic, but before it was damaged by a lightning strike and repaired in the 1970s, alternating bands of shingles of different hues made it a spectacular fixture of Manitoba's Central Parkland area. Regular maintenance since then has resulted in a church that is in unusually good condition.
On a warm Thursday summer evening, despite ominous dark storm clouds advancing over the lake, it was evident that the church was open. Inside, four dedicated men were frantically finishing a redecorating project in time for Sunday's Divine Liturgy. Nevertheless, they were happy to pause and show their church to a stranger.
Everything in the building was being cleaned or replaced if necessary, with many precious icons half-hidden by dangling protective plastic sheets.
Prominent on the half-dome ceiling behind the altar are images of biblical scenes, most noteworthy Christ ascending into heaven as his disciples look on. A traditional, multi-tiered chandelier hangs from the central dome.
An unusual feature is that the prominent pendentives, the four triangular areas at the base of the central dome, are decorated with images of trumpet-sounding angels rather than the traditional evangelists. With their wings and instruments designed to fit the triangular spaces, perhaps they are an allegorical portrayal of the Gospel-writers proclaiming the good news.
Today, the Church of the Ascension is, with many other rural parishes, a mission within the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Winnipeg headed by Archbishop Lawrence Huculak of Winnipeg, metropolitan for Ukrainian Catholics in Canada.
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