Description of Historic Place
St. Michael's Ukrainian Catholic Church, erected in 1904, is a wood-frame building in Olha. The municipal designation applies to the church, its adjacent bell tower and cemetery, and the grounds they occupy.
St. Michael's Ukrainian Catholic Church, one of the first of its type built to serve the growing Ukrainian settlement around Olha, is an excellent example of a substantial, early twentieth-century rural church that blends Ukrainian and Western European architectural influences. The building's distinctive cruciform shape, twin-towered front, high central dome, Gothic windows and elaborate interior iconography, hand-painted by Jacob Maydanyk, demonstrate the priority settlers placed on overcoming pioneer-era challenges to maintain their religious traditions. These attributes also are in keeping with a facility that for a period was the seat and central church of its pastoral district and, as such, an influential religious and cultural centre. Situated on a tranquil site next to the farmland that first drew Ukrainian immigrants to the area, the well-preserved structure, along with a bell tower and cemetery, continue to be cherished links to the homeland, as well as to the pioneers who settled here.
Source: Rural Municipality of Rossburn By-law No. 1217, April 11, 1990
Key elements that define the heritage character of the St. Michael's Ukrainian Catholic Church site include:
- its corner location in the crossroads hamlet of Olha and the church's placement well back from adjacent roadways, oriented east-west within a large grassed and treed plot that includes a cemetery
- the large wooden bell tower with a square base lit by multi-paned windows in pedimented surrounds, an octagonal belfry with louvred openings and a small onion dome topped by a cross
Key exterior elements that define the building as an early, eclectically styled Ukrainian church include:
- the symmetrical multi-volume massing around a tall cross-shaped central core, including the extended entrance porch, twin front towers, polygonal transepts and apse, and small vestry in the northeast corner
- the trio of onion domes, including a tall narrow central dome on a two-tier octagonal drum with faux windows and the more compressed tower domes, all metal-clad and crowned by small globes and crosses
- the other elements of the complex roofline, including the core volume's cross-gable roof and the gable, polygonal and shed roofs of the lower ancillary volumes
- the orderly fenestration, including pointed arched windows in wood surrounds and an oculus in the apse
- the unpretentious materials and finishes, including the horizontal wood siding with trim painted a contrasting colour, the cedar shingles, the double and single porch doors, etc.
Key elements that define the church's highly detailed interior include:
- the cruciform layout, including the spacious narthex/vestibule integrated with the centre-aisle nave, the alcove-like transepts, mostly defined by high, distinctively configured, vaulted or truncated ceilings
- the large, elaborately detailed iconostas across the sanctuary
- the expressive wood finishes, including the nave's plank ceiling with gold stars and various icons on a pale blue background, the fine gilded trim, the borders outlined by stencilled folk motifs, the faux marble finishes on dark-painted lower walls and some columns, etc.
- other details such as the wooden pews, the coloured glass in portions of some windows, the metal wood stove with exposed piping, the enclosed loft stairway, etc.