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St. Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church: Celebration of the 2016 OAA Landmark Designation

03 Jan 2017
Image Credit: Braeden Martel
Architectural Credit: John Stefura and Carl Skerl, Townend Stefura Baleshta and Pfister Architects
In recognition of the 2016 OAA Landmark Designation being awarded to St. Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church and architect John Stefura, an evening of celebration was held at the church on June 15th, 2016. Members of the church, community, municipal government and local media were in attendance. The Northern Ontario Society of Architects (NOSA) and church members provided guided tours through the building and hosted a reception.

Photo Credit: Braeden Martel
At the celebration the OAA Landmark Designation was presented to Father Peter Bodnar and architect John Stefura by NOSA members Amber Baechler and Mark Baechler. The following is an excerpt from their presentation:

As a professor with the School of Architecture I have had the opportunity to meet with John on several occasions to learn about his career and the design of the Church. My students and I have benefitted greatly from visiting, studying and documenting the building over the past three years.

While preparing the nomination package we had the opportunity to learn more about the church and the people involved. Immigrants from Ukraine began arriving in Sudbury in the 1890s to work at the Copper Cliff mine; religious services in the Eastern Catholic tradition began shortly after. In 1923, the current of Our Lady of Pokrov Parish was inaugurated. As an Eastern Catholic Church, parishioners carried with them distinct liturgy, rites and practices that they sought to maintain in Northern Ontario. One of these cultural practices was building churches in the Byzantine tradition of a large dome over the entire nave.

John’s design for the church resolves a historical religious tradition with a modern industrial city. Whereas the typical Byzantine dome is construct¬ed of masonry and rests heavily on the Earth, John designed a wooden dome clad in copper that floats above a modern masonry plinth. Light en¬ters the nave through a continuous band of clerestory windows at the base of the dome. This separation accentuates its lightness and its symbolism of the heavenly realm.

The sophisticated spatial composition is matched by a carefully crafted material construction. The scale of the detail extends from the wood doors and ceiling treatments to the coloured stained glass that surrounds the nave. At every turn, John’s design successfully translates historical church elements into a modern language using local materials.


Mark and Amber Baechler; Photo Credit: Braeden Martel

John Stefura, Father Peter Bodnar (left to right); Photo Credit: Braeden Martel

St. Mary’s was selected for nomination by John’s NOSA peers as part of an initiative to foster discussion on architecture in Northern Ontario. The nomination process was open to all NOSA members and generated a lot of discussion on many notable buildings. Preparation of the nomination package involved research at local archives, review of written histories and interviews with the architect and the church community. NOSA intends to continue to nominate landmark buildings and foster this important discussion on architecture in the north.

Find out more about Landmark Designation Award here!  

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