Traditional Architectural Styles of Ukrainian Churches

Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church,
west of Yorkton, SK

Many of the traditional Ukrainian church styles originate from certain regions of the Ukrainian homelands. However, there also are noticeable differences in the architecture seen in cities versus the villages of the old country.

Today, the regions where ethnically Ukrainian peoples traditionally lived may not be entirely within the borders of modern Ukraine. For example, many Ukrainian immigrants came to Canada from villages that today are in Poland, Romania, etc. Also, many of the ethnic sub-groups such as Lemkos and Hutsuls lived in such close proximity to each other that there was actually an overlap of these sub-groups that would make it impossible to draw distinct borders separating the regions.

While certain characteristics can be attributed to these styles of churches, one will always find exceptions and the discussion of architectural styles can only be made in a very general sense. In particular, the conditions in Canada made it almost impossible to perfectly replicate the styles of churches from the old country. Adjustments had to be made for the differences in climate. Building materials that were readily available in Canada were not always the same as those readily found in Eastern Europe. Finally, the Ukrainians who immigrated to Canada were mainly farmers and few of them would have had the high degree of skill and training that would have been required to replicate the more elaborate of the traditional church styles. Sometimes, the best one can say about many Ukrainian-Canadian churches is that they draw influence from a particular traditional style of Ukrainian architecture.

In some of the web pages listed at the right there are images of Old Country churches to illustrate certain styles. We are fortunate to have examples of such churches since many were abandoned during the communist period and it does not take long for a wooden structure to deteriorate when it is not adequately maintained. After World War II, the Polish government made “adjustments” to the ethnic content of certain regions of Eastern Poland, which led to a dispersal of the Ukrainian population. Many Greek Catholic churches that had been serving ethnically Ukrainian parishes had to be abandoned. In some instances, Ukrainian churches were taken over by Polish Roman Catholics and adjustments were made to make the church more western looking.

Canada is fortunate to have a wealth of fascinating traditional-style Ukrainian churches.