St Aidan Orthodox Church in Cranbrook Caps Recent Renovations with New Cupola

March 27, 2018

Completing renovations undertaken over the past year, St Aidan of Lindisfarne Church in Cranbrook, BC has now replaced its cupola.

The rector of the parish, Fr Andrew Applegate, writes:

If you haven’t been by the church over the last couple weeks and you are in Cranbrook, plan to come by and see our beautiful new cupola! In my opinion there is not a more beautiful and perfectly crafted cupola in all of Canada!

During our exterior restoration project, the existing cupola was found to be in much worse shape than anticipated. it was discovered that it was built with a very basic skeleton framing structure that had thin tin bent around the frame. The tin had many holes and wear from hail and wind over the years, and the nails had popped where driven into the frame, caulking had failed when past repairs had been attempted, and it had far exceeded its useful service life.  As there was no structure with which to work, we needed to completely redo the cupola, starting with improving the support tower structure to be able to take the additional weight a proper sheathed and shingled new cupola would add.

Fortunately, we were able to hire Andrei Botezatu and his company “High Standard Installations” out of Calgary to design, build and install the needed replacement cupola. Andrei is an architect from Moldova now living in Canada, and his work far exceeded anything we could have imagined. If you need a classic cupola made for your Church, I would highly recommend contacting our dear Orthodox Christian brother Andrei Botezatu at 587-888-3645.

Andrei first carefully designed the perfect shape and built the main onion dome, sheathed it completely with 3/4” planking and then smoothed it over with molded ¼” plywood. He added six-sided soffits under the dome to properly allow for drainage and improve the aesthetics, and then added a beautiful bell tower, topped with a matching roof over it to house our 2 new bells. In keeping with the natural resources of our area (Sullivan zinc mine) he sourced out thick 22 ga. pure zinc sheets and then hand cut and formed individual diamond shingles to cover the main dome, hammering out by hand the 10’ zinc cap sections between the diamond shingle sections. The 3 roofs over the soffit, the onion dome, and the bell tower are also clad in 22 ga. pure zinc. The soffits themselves are done in ¾” T & G cedar to match the rest of the new cedar soffits and keep to the theme of using locally sourced materials. The crowning touch is a pure aluminum 7 ft. tall 3 bar Orthodox cross, re-proportioned from the cross that used to grace our Mother church in Calgary, St. Peter the Aleut, at their original building.

We were able to install the cross very appropriately on Saturday evening, March 10, just as Vespers ended and the 3rd Sunday of Lent, “The Veneration of the Cross” began. After Vespers we came out and sang “O Lord, save Your people…” After the Sunday of the Cross Liturgy we were able to go out and again sing and bless the cross from the manlift! God’s timing is always perfect!

We are presently fundraising to pay for the costs for this classic cupola. While the total price is extremely reasonable for such a beautiful work of art at around $45,000, it is a stretch for our small mission parish. We have already been blessed with generous donations of around $30,000 towards this and so are now working on the last $15,000. If you still have some church beautification or mission-parish Pascha alms set aside and could help St. Aidan’s in coming up with the funds to pay for this, we would be most grateful. This is a God-pleasing opportunity to contribute to beautifying Christ’s Church by participating in funding this very visible iconic Orthodox architectural feature which will be a classic Cranbrook landmark for decades and even centuries to come!  May you be blessed as you help with this fundraising request. Please phone me if you would like more information on this project.  Of course, all donations will receive a charitable tax receipt.

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The following article appeared in the Cranbrook Daily Townsman:

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