Boyko Style

Boyko Church in the L’viv Museum of Folk Architecture
with towers that are four-sided pyramids

Like the Lemko style, the Boyko style of church generally follows the tripartite floor plan. Boyko churches differ, however, in that the tallest section of the church is over the central nave area. The nave is also frequently wider in a Boyko church than would be the case of a Lemko church and the nave often has a rather square look to it. The sanctuary (altar area) of a Boyko church is frequently square rather than apsidal shaped, as well; although, this is not always the case. The three sections generally are each surmounted by a tower or dome with a cross on top. In Boyko churches the belfry is usually a freestanding structure, located close to the church but not attached to it.

Boyko churches in the old country were likely to have been made of logs and many of the early Boyko churches in Canada were also of log construction. As time went on, log construction was not as practical in Canada and frame construction became the norm.

Old Country Boyko churches frequently had piddashshia and opasannia, which were used to keep the rainwater off the walls. However, the Canadian varieties have rarely exhibited the same degree of elaborate woodwork. Sometimes there was a multi-layering of the eaves displayed on Boyko churches that went from functional to the elaborately ornamental. This is demonstrated in a fantastical church located in the L’viv Museum of Folk Architecture.

Another example of an interesting Boyko style church is found also in the L’viv Museum of Folk Architecture. In this instance, note that four-sided pyramids surmount each of the three sections of the church. This use of a pyramid-shaped structure instead of a round or polygonal dome is fairly common in Boyko churches. As with the first example there is an elaborate use of eaves.

The above examples are genuinely museum pieces in every sense of those words. Since there are many examples of churches in Canada with Boyko influence, it also is worth looking at a few old country churches that are less ornamented and may give a better idea of the type of churches that may have influenced some Ukrainian-Canadian church builders.

Boyko Church in the L’viv Museum of Folk Architecture


The St. Demetrius Church at Pyatkova Ruska located in eastern Poland is a good example of one type of Boyko church. Note that the squared sections of the tripartite structure are topped with large onion domes. This was a Greek Catholic church but it was not in use at the time the photo was taken in 2001. Note the gallery (opasannia) that goes around the perimeter of the church.

St. Demetrius Church, Pyatkova Ruska, Poland

Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church at Liskowate in eastern Poland is a fairly humble church that demonstrates the four-sided pyramids that are used instead of the onion domes.

Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church, Liskowate, Poland

Finally, St. Theodosius Church located at Malava in eastern Poland demonstrates a Boyko structure in which there are small cupolas on raised drums placed over the three sections of the church. St. Theodosius was originally a Greek Catholic church, prior to World War II. After the war, a great many of the Ukrainians living in that area were forced out. The church was allowed to decay. When the photograph was taken in 2001, Roman Catholics recently had taken over the church and were attempting to restore it for their own use. Such has been the story for a great many Greek Catholic churches in eastern Poland.

St. Theodosius Church, Malava, Poland

Ukrainians began building Boyko-style churches fairly early in Canada. St. Michael’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Gardenton, Manitoba, is widely regarded as the oldest active Ukrainian church in Canada and it is of the Boyko school of architecture. Rev. Nestor Dmytriw, a Greek Catholic priest visiting the area, consecrated the churchyard in 1897. The church itself was built between 1898 and 1899. Not long after, Russian Orthodox missionaries from Minneapolis regularly visited St. Michael’s church. The parish eventually left the Russian Orthodox diocese and joined the Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church of Canada.

St. Michael’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Gardenton, MB

In the photograph, one can see that the sanctuary ends in a flat rectangular wall rather than being apsidal shaped. The central nave area has a very square shape to it. The highest part of the church is over the centre and a polygonal pyramid supports the central dome. Together, these are characteristics that place St. Michael’s Church in the Boyko category. What cannot be seen is that the church is actually of traditional log construction. The logs were covered over with clapboard siding at some point in its history.

One of the most interesting examples of a Boyko style church in Canada is St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church near Old Wostok, Alberta. While the shape of the church is typically Boyko, it is unusual in that it was constructed of brick. The parish built the church in 1922 and it was the second church of the parish—the first having been built in 1904. The overall look of the building is highly graceful. The balance and proportion of the towers over each of the three sections of the church is very pleasing to the eye.

St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church near Old Wostok, Alberta

Near Hampton, Saskatchewan, Sts. Peter and Paul Ukrainian Orthodox Church is an example of an early pioneer structure that draws influence from the Boyko style. The church is over 100 years old. Note that over the central nave area is a four-sided pyramid. The church only has the one central tower that is only modestly raised above the rest of the roofline; however, in every other respect the influence is clearly Boyko.

Sts. Peter and Paul Ukrainian Orthodox Church – 7 miles east of Hampton, SK

Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church in Dobrowody, Saskatchewan, is fascinating because its nave is surmounted with what is neither a four-sided pyramid nor an onion dome. Rather, it the structure seems to be a cross between the two architectural elements. Note the very square look of the central nave that often typifies the Boyko style. This church was built in 1912.

Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church, Dobrowody, SK

St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church was built in 1912 at Buczacz, Alberta, but is now located in the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Museum, east of Edmonton. In this instance, the cupolas over each of the three sections of the church are fairly small but the church is in keeping with Boyko architecture in most other respects.

St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church, an exhibit in the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Museum

St. Pokrava Ukrainian Orthodox Church (also known as Protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary) is at Edwand, Alberta, where settlers built it in 1903. In many respects the church has Bukovynian characteristics; however, the proportionately large nave with the four-sided pyramidal roof tips it more into the Boyko camp.

St. Pokrava Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Edwand, Alberta

Finally, Holy Trinity Orthodox Church (OCA) in the town of Smoky Lake, Alberta, is in a style that is somewhat reminiscent of St. Theodosius Church, discussed above. The parish was established in 1904 and a church constructed not long after; however, like so many pioneer churches, it burned down. Therefore, this photo is of the second church of the parish and it was built in 1928. Also of note is a very large cemetery that is part of the churchyard.

Holy Trinity Orthodox Church (OCA), Smoky Lake, AB