Orthodox Church gets much-needed renovations

St. Aidan Orthodox Church in Cranbrook has received a major facelift

Paul Rodgers

Thanks to a grant from Columbia Basin Trust (CBT) and the time and energy of devoted friends and parishioners, St. Aidan Orthodox Church in Cranbrookhas received a major facelift.

Father Andrew Applegate explained that prior to purchasing the church in April they had been leasing it from the Ukrainian Catholics who built it back in 1952.

“They kind of dwindled,” he said. “It was all in Ukrainian and everything and of course some of their kids didn’t learn the language so over time they found that they didn’t have enough parishioners to support it, so they started leasing it out.”

Applegate explained that Ukrainian Catholics and the Orthodox have very similar worship styles, coming out of the same roots from hundreds of years ago, so it was a very good fit for them. When they bought it, however, they realized the church had what Applegate referred to as “deferred maintenance.”

“It needed quite a bit of work because the thing with leasing is you’re not really going to put a ton of money into it yourself necessarily, and they got tired of us sending them bills which is why they wanted to sell it I think.”

The church had had a fire back in the 1970s and all the necessary repairs were conducted, except to the roof, which still had some charred rafters. They brought in an engineer who agreed that major renovation was needed and they completed it with the help of a Built Heritage Grant from CBT.

The next step was to address the iconic cupola, the dome structure prominent on Orthodox churches, which had been there from the beginning.

“[It] looked pretty good from forty feet below but from five feet it wasn’t so good,” Applegate said. He explained that the dome was full of holes, was leaking and the structure itself was built out of extremely thin tin.

“Like really thin, so thin that you could probably wrap your potatoes in it on your barbecue.”

They realized that they couldn’t repair it and it would need to be replaced. It just so happened that the very Sunday they were up examining the cupola, they had a visitor: Andrei Botezatu, a Moldovan architect from their mother church, St. Peter the Aluet in Calgary.

“And in Moldova when you study architecture you learn a lot about cupolas, they’re all over the place, right, all over Romania and Moldova,” Applegate said. “And so he’d learned a lot in architecture and then he moved to Canada, and really I don’t think they have a course on cupolas in Canada, they’re not that common, but he really knew his stuff.”

Botezatu, who owns High Standard Installations, told Applegate that he had been yearning for a chance to build a real, proper cupola and so he found a perfect opportunity. He built one from scratch in his backyard over a five-month period, at a fraction of the cost.

“I’m sure to buy something like that with normal things would have been $100,000 and by the time we’re done we’re going to end up I think we’ll owe about $15,000 on it,” Applegate said, adding that they are now looking to fundraise for that last amount.

On Monday, March 26 they put the final touches on the structure including a beautiful icon from one of their patrons. Applegate himself, who was in the roofing industry for 30 years before he became a priest, was up in the lift working away. They also had a parishioner donate them some bells, in honour of his late father.

“So we now have bells which we never had which works out very well because we like to ring bells at Pascha which is coming up pretty quick. So April 8 we’ll be able to ring our bells for Pascha at 2:00 in the morning and hopefully have very kind and accepting neighbours.”

Applegate said that this is the cupola of all cupolas as far as he’s concerned and that he thinks it will be there for hundreds of years.

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