St. Josaphat Ukranian Catholic Cathedral


Conservation Plan

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The main focus of this study was to identify the conservation needs of the church and to prepare priorities for restoration and repairs in the near future. In addition, this study was considered an important step in the process of designating the Cathedral as a Municipal Historic Resource. The building was designated as a Municipal Historic Resource in 2015. The City has provided a financial incentive of $500,000 toward the cost of exterior restoration.


The heritage value of St. Josaphat Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral consists in its association with the establishment and development of Ukrainian Catholic religious life in Alberta and in its excellent representation of Ukrainian-Canadian church architecture.

Prior to the turn of the twentieth century, Ukrainian Catholics on the prairies frequently found themselves bereft of clergy familiar with their language, culture, or liturgy. In 1902, the Ukrainian Basilian Fathers arrived in Edmonton to minister to the Ukrainian Catholic population. They represented some of the earliest Ukrainian Catholic missionaries in western Canada. Under the leadership of Reverend Sozont Dydyk, the Basilians built the original St. Josaphat Church in 1904. The faith community continued to expand in the succeeding decades; by the late 1930s, the church was deemed too small for the growing parish. In 1938, plans were drawn up for an ambitious new building to both comfortably accommodate the church’s parishioners and commemorate the 950 year anniversary of the Christianization of the Ukraine. Construction on the church began the following year and was completed in the mid 1940s. The church was solemnly dedicated in 1947. One year later, a Papal Bull divided the Ukrainian Catholic Exarchate of Winnipeg – encompassing all of Canada – into three exarchates (administrative districts) located in Edmonton, Winnipeg, and Toronto. As the sole Ukrainian Catholic church in Edmonton, St. Josaphat was designated a cathedral, with Most Reverend Neil N. Savaryn appointed Bishop Ordinary for the Apostolic Exarchate of Edmonton serving Alberta and British Columbia.

St. Josaphat Ukrainian Catholic Church is one of the finest examples of Ukrainian-Canadian church architecture. The building’s architect, Philip Ruh, was an Oblate priest tasked with working as a missionary among Canada’s Ukrainian Catholics. He sensitized himself to the aesthetic and spiritual sensibilities of Ukrainian Catholics and was responsible for designing over thirty churches for this faith community throughout western Canada and Ontario. St. Josaphat is the most grandiose example of Ruh’s work in Alberta, expressing the architect’s rich sense of historical continuity with the Byzantine tradition and his appreciation for Ukrainian Baroque ideals. Based on the nine-part cruciform plan – the largest of the Ukrainian Baroque designs – the church embodies Baroque exuberance in its polychromatic exterior, featuring dark brick pilasters and yellow brick crosses, and in the dramatic structure of its cupolas. The church’s interior was adorned in the 1950s with the iconographic work of Professor Julian Bucmaniuk, a well-known muralist who rendered traditional Byzantine iconography in brighter colours and with a greater emphasis upon realism. Bucmaniuk often utilized parishioners as models for his images of holy men and women. The whole of the church participates in the Eastern Christian vision of sacred space, from the seven cupolas representing the sacraments and the gifts of the Holy Spirit to the interior iconography expressing the sanctification of human experience through the presence of the Divine.

Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 1085)