Published on Jul 10, 2012
A PRAIRIE CATHEDRAL MADE WITH 20 BOXCARS OF CEMENT AND THOUSANDS OF TONS OF GRAVEL AND SAND
The Immaculate Conception Church at Cook's Creek MB is a National Historic Site of Canada.
We never got to go inside the church as tours are on Saturday and Sunday. video and pics were all taken by me. © 2012 - Dianne Campbell. All rights reserved
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Built by Father Philip Ruh who was the most influential architect of Ukrainian Catholic churches in Western Canada.He combined the Byzantine church architecture of Ukraine with the architecture of the great western European cathedrals to build some 40 churches, mostly in Western Canada.
Construction of this church began at the worst time, in 1930, just as the Great Depression was starting. It took 22 years to complete and was built with all volunteer labor and parishioners' donations.
That included 20 boxcars filled with cement and thousands of tonnes of gravel and sand, all of it mixed by hand. "Youths were trained to handle saws and levels; men dug the foundation ditches; women hauled rocks; children carried smaller stones," wrote David Butterfield and Maureen Devanik Butterfield in their book, "If Walls Could Talk: Manitoba's Best Buildings Explored."
The church construction took on no debt and was built entirely with hand tools. Ruh forbade any power tools, even a cement mixer. It was nearer God that way. A pulley was the only modern machinery used, he told the Winnipeg Free Press at the consecration Sunday July 27, 1952. That opening service lasted five hours.
The grotto next door that Ruh patterned after the famous grotto in Lourdes. Grotto construction began in 1954. It was made with 23,110 bags of cement, 44 tonnes of steel, 6,592 yards of gravel. It wasn't completed until 1970 by the Knights of Columbus, eight years after Ruh died of cancer.
Walking about you notice something odd. You realize the church's exterior brickwork isn't brickwork at all. It's a concrete composite, dabbed with white spots and stenciled over with black lines to make it look like brickwork.This imitation is found inside the church, too. The marble isn't marble but a kind of feathered paintwork to make the wooden arches look like marble. The grotto is concrete that has been shaped to look like the natural stones in Lourdes.
There is at least one central dome on a Ukrainian church, representing Jesus Christ. There can be any number of smaller satellite domes around it. If it is accompanied by two domes, that forms the Holy Trinity; four extra satellite domes represent evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke and John; seven domes in total represent the sacraments: baptism, confirmation, holy eucharist, penance, holy orders, marriage, and extreme unction (last rites)."The artwork of the church was always to show some evidence of the kingdom of heaven," one priest explained.
Most church's floor plans are cruciform--shaped like a cross laid flat on the ground. The buildings have three chambers with the central chamber the largest and representing the cross piece. Inside the churches, the cross shape is outlined by red carpet that runs up the center aisle.Ruh was a self-taught architect a self-taught Ukrainian. He was born in 1883 in Alsace-Lorraine, then German territory and now in France. He always regarded himself as more German than French, and later in Canada changed his name from Roux to Ruh.
After he was ordained in 1910, the Roman Catholic Church assigned him to Ukraine. He adapted quickly to the Ukrainian language and culture, and remained in the Ukrainian church all his life. He came to Canada in 1913 and began missionary work in northern Alberta. There he began designing and building many small Ukrainian churches. He was also a builder and labourer on the churches, and there are many photos of him pushing a wheelbarrow.
Today, Ruh's grave site is memorialized with a special place of honor, surrounded by spruce trees, in the cemetery next to the Cook's Creek church. His right-hand men in church construction, master builders Mike Sawchuk and Michael Yanchynski, are buried beside him.
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