Photographs | Churches

During the summer of 1899, Stephan and Nikon Shandro and Semion Hawrelak and their wives selected what they thought would be a good site for the church and cemetery. That autumn, more settlers emigrated from neighbouring villages in Bucovina also of the Orthodox Faith. The Priest Alexander Antoniev came to bless the site of the future Temple.

On 7 January, 1900, the community met after they had celebrated the Feast of the Nativity of Christ, and by the Feast of Pascha (Easter) of 1900, they had approved the site for the new Temple. To obtain the necessary government approvals, Nikon Shandro, Jacob Matichuk and George Ostashek then made the 129 km (80 mi) journey to Edmonton. Through an interpreter (they could not yet speak English), they presented their case to the government officials, and their requests were granted. The standard allotment for a church was 40 acres.

In June, 1900, the cemetery was blessed and sanctified by the Priest Jacob Korchinsky, a travelling missionary priest in this region. He visited the community for 3 days and served the first Divine Liturgy on the site. Thirty-three children were baptised and chrismated that day. Their families had travelled from many miles away by horse and oxen.

In the winter of 1901-1902, trees were cut and timbers milled from them for the new Temple, and construction began that summer. Under the leadership of head carpenter Stefan Rosychuk (the only one who was paid for his work), a crew of volunteer labour completed the main body of the structure by the spring of 1904. The interior, completed by Stefan Gudzowaty, was finished several years later.

Saint Mary’s Russo-Greek Orthodox Church at Shandro is a traditional wooden Bucovinian “tripartite”, or 3-sectioned design plan with angular roofs and gables, topped by 3 small onion-shaped domes or cupolas (some affectionately call them “banyaks”, that is, “pots”). The exterior walls are wood-sided and the roof is cedar-shingled. The designer and head carpenter was Stephan Rosychuk, who could neither read nor write; his amazingly accurate designs came from his memory of Ukraine. Mr. Rosychuk’s style of architecture is unmistakable, as it combined more than one element of different regions in Ukraine and Eastern Europe into one harmonious design. Saint Mary’s Temple at Shandro is structurally noteworthy for this reason.

On 28 August, 1904, Bishop Tikhon of North America and the Aleutians (later Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia and then Saint Tikhon), accompanied by 2 priests of the Faith, celebrated the first Divine Liturgy at the new Temple. At the same time, the Temple was sanctified and named in honour of the Dormition of the Mother of God.

In 1913, a belfry (bell-house) was added as an integral part of the Temple building, at the western entrance, which was rather unusual for this period, and characteristic of Mr. Rosychuk’s distinctive architectural style. The belfry is of Ukrainian Carpathian design: square, topped with an octagonal drum featuring flared overhangs. What is most unique is that on top of this structure is an amazing 16-sided drum, capped with a modified Greek-Byzantine (rather than Slavic) dome. 

The work was completed in 1915. Saint Mary’s Church is truly a landmark for the surrounding region. Due to the scarcity of original Rosychuk churches, its completely unique design, unusually blended elements, and long history, Saint Mary’s Russo-Greek Orthodox Church at Shandro is a prominent, rare jewel in Two Hills County, and indeed in Canada. With its rich history, continued use, unusual artifacts, and its outstanding Ukrainian-Canadian vernacular architectural features, it is considered to be a precious legacy for Two Hills County.

The cemetery is located on the same property, to the south of the Temple. It was established at the time of the beginning of the parish, and it is accessed by a gate which is separate from the main gate entry to the Temple.

Go HERE for more information and history of this parish.

Play Memory Eternal Chants

Visit this Cemetery
GPS Co-ordinates: 53.951261, -112.157254
Cemetery Co-ordinates: 53.948615, -112.158219
Affiliation: Orthodox Church in America



Holy Assumption Russo Orthodox Church – Shandro, AB