• Church Tour

This virtual tour in word and image will give you a glimpse of our beautiful church temple and help your understand the meaning of its architecture, and liturgical furnishings. Here you will see how the structure and contents of an Orthodox church are in harmony with its liturgical worship. “The interior of an Orthodox church is designed to … preach the Gospel through architecture and icons, to elevate one’s mind and heart to the God one comes to praise and worship.”

Our church was built in 1968 for Ottawa’s oldest parish, Holy Trinity Bukowinian Orthodox Cathedral, formerly located on Gladstone Avenue. It was consecrated on Sunday, October 13 of that year.

The temple was designed by Basil Miska, who adapted a concept by George Kodak. A harmonious blend of the old and new, it represents a marriage of clearly Byzantine features with bold 1960s accents.

In typical Orthodox fashion, our church is built in three sections, each crowned with a cupola (dome). Adorning each cupola is a cross, the instrument of our salvation.

Inside the cupola over the narthex is a bell brought from Holy Trinity Church’s original location on Gladstone Avenue.

The church’s three sections represent both the fulfilment of the Old Testament Temple of Solomon and, in accordance with Orthodox theology, the three stages of the spiritual life:

One enters through the narthex, which corresponds to the courtyard of the Jewish temple. In ancient times, penitents and catechumens (those preparing for baptism) used this space. In a mystical sense, the narthex points to the first stage of the spiritual life, that of purification.
The largest section, in the centre of the church, is called the nave, and it corresponds to the part of the Jewish temple known as the “Holy Place,” where the Hebrew faithful gathered for worship. The nave also stands for the stage of illumination.

The altar corresponds to the enclosed area of the temple known as the “Holy of Holies,” where the Jews kept the Ark of the Covenant. Usually, only those who celebrate the services of the Church are permitted in this area, which symbolizes the highest stage of the spiritual life – the vision of God.

Inside the church, one is keenly aware of the special place of the multitude of icons. These are not seen as mere art, but have been used for prayer and instruction in the faith from the first centuries of Christianity. People enter the church, lovingly kiss the icons, and light candles before them.
Believers are thus united with the glorious company of saints in the sacred temple and are made aware of the presence of Christ Who, because He became incarnate for our sakes, can be depicted. For the faithful, icons are “windows into Heaven;” through icons, Heaven also gazes at us. The reverence shown to an icon is intended, not for the painted wood, but for the person depicted on it (whose presence the icon mediates).
In an Orthodox sanctuary, one can glimpse the altar table, which is usually a freestanding cube constructed of wood or stone. The early Church celebrated its services over the burial sites of martyrs; sometimes, as in the case of the catacombs in Rome, the tomb of a martyr even served as an altar table. Thus, relics of saints are placed in the altar table at the time of the consecration of the altar and church. The altar table embodies the presence of the celestial throne of Christ, and the relics point to the foundation of the Church upon the blood of the martyrs. On the altar table are the tabernacle, in which are reserved the Body and Blood of Christ, and the Gospel Book, wherein Christ is present as the Word of Life.
On the rear wall there is a large fresco depicting Christ, the Great High Priest celebrating the Eucharist together with several Fathers of the Church. The American iconographer-priest Fr. Demetrios Leussis completed this composition in 2005.
On the upper part of the rear altar wall are three frescoes depicting (from top to bottom) the Old Testament Trinity, the Mandylion, and the Theotokos of the Sign. These frescoes were painted by Montreal iconographer Alexandre Sobolev in 2008.
The altar is separated from the nave by an icon screen called the iconostasis, which represents the threshold of paradise. This solid-oak icon screen is the work of Issa Zoghbi of Montreal, an iconographer and ecclesiastical woodworker. The iconostasis has a theological significance and is not merely decorative: it embodies the union of Heaven and Earth in Christ.
In the centre are the Royal Doors, so called because Christ the King is carried through them in the Divine Liturgy as the priest brings His Body and Blood (Communion) to the faithful, and because they open to Christ’s throne (the altar table). When the Royal Doors are opened during the Divine Liturgy, we are reminded that Christ has opened for us the way to paradise; the Church is invited to enter Heaven spiritually during the Eucharistic celebration. These icons are the work of Alexandre Sobolev.
The six large matching icons on the iconostasis were painted in 1979. They are the work of Archimandrite Alexei Rosentool, who was at the time associated with the icon studio of Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Monastery in Jordanville, New York. To the right of the Royal Doors is the icon of Christ. To the left is His Mother, the Virgin Mary, whom Orthodox always call by the title “Theotokos,” or “Birthgiver of God.”
The two smaller doors in the iconostasis are known as the Deacons’ Doors. On the right Deacon’s Door is an icon of the Archangel Michael. The left Deacon’s Door bears the Archangel Gabriel.
On the far right is the icon of St. John the Baptist. He is considered the most important saint after the Virgin Mary. To the far left is the icon of St. Nicholas, who has long been venerated for the many miracles attributed to him both during his life and after his death.
In the centre of the top tier of the iconostasis, there is an icon of the Communion of the 12 Apostles.
Three medallions to the left of the iconostasis depict sainted deaconesses (the order of deaconess was active until the end of the first millennium). They are (L-R) St. Nonna (mother of St. Gregory the Theologian), St. Olympias, and St. Phoebe.
To the right of the iconostasis are three medallions featuring holy deacons: (L-R) St. Stephen the First Martyr, St. Nicanor, and St. Laurence of Rome.
On either side of the central icon are a total of 12 arched frames bearing icons portraying the major feast days of the Church. All icons on this tier were painted by Alexandre Sobolev.
To the left of the iconostasis is a kivot (shrine) bearing the image of St. John of Kronstadt. An icon of St. John of Rila is in the kivot to the right of the iconostasis. The icons in both shrines at the front of the church are the work of Alexandre Sobolev.
Facing the front of the church, one sees a kivot on the left wall with an ornately embroidered rectangular painted cloth with an image of Christ’s body being wrapped in a shroud. Called the Plashchanytsia (Slavonic) or the Epitaphion (Greek), it is used in the services of Good Friday and Holy Saturday.
On the right wall, there is a shrine bearing an original icon of St. Herman of Alaska, one of the first Orthodox missionaries to North America.
At the front of the nave, over the opening to the Altar, is a large composition (the Deisis, meaning “intercession”) depicting Christ enthroned in majesty in the centre, while various saints intercede before Him on His right and left sides.
To the left of Christ, we see the Virgin Mary, the Archangel St. Gabriel, St. Peter the Apostle, St. Nektarios (a 20th-century Greek bishop venerated as a healer), the ascetic and church father St. Symeon the New Theologian, and finally St. Katherine the Great-Martyr.
To the right of Christ, we see St. John the Baptist, the Archangel St. Michael, St. Paul the Apostle, St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco, the ascetic and church father St. Maximos the Confessor, and finally St. Barbara the Great-Martyr. Fr. Demetrios Leussis executed this work in 2005.
The fresco of the crucifixion at the front left of the church was completed in 2007 by Alexandre Sobolev. Christ is shown crucified over the place where, according to Orthodox tradition, Adam was buried. Standing to His left is His Holy Mother, who bore the pain of witnessing the death of her Son. Standing behind her is St. Mary Magdalene. On the inside right is St. John the Apostle, shown pondering the great mystery of the Crucifixion. Finally, at the far right is the Roman centurion St. Longinus, who said of Christ, “Truly this Man was the Son of God!”
This composition at the front right of the church was also executed by Alexandre Sobolev in 2007. In this fresco, Christ has shattered the gates of hell and He is seen to be raising Adam and Eve from their tombs. On the left side we see St. John the Baptist, King David, and other Old Testament saints witnessing the event, while on the right stand Moses and more Old Testament saints. The icons of the Crucifixion and Resurrection represent the very heart of Orthodox Christian teaching – Christ died and is risen for our salvation.
The magnificent 12’-wide fresco of Christ the Ruler of All (Pantocrator) surrounded by seraphim and cherubim was added to the interior of the main dome in 2004 by Fr. Demetrios Leussis. Because the victory of Christ is central to our Orthodox Christian faith, His icon is traditionally placed at the highest point of the church. In the dome below the Pantocrator, a circle of tall windows floods the interior of the church with natural light.
Stars are stencilled on the ceiling because it represents the dome of the sky over the earth.
Chandeliers point to the majesty of the firmament and the glory of the sun, moon, and planets. “The heavens declare the glory of God.” (Psalm 19:1). The chandelier hanging from the central cupola has 179 lights and 14 icons that portray the Twelve Apostles, the Holy Trinity, and the Resurrection.
Plated in 24-carat gold, this chandelier weighs 650 pounds; it is 11 feet high and 6 ½ feet in diameter.
Eight smaller chandeliers of similar style were installed in 2004. All our chandeliers were imported from Greece.
At the rear of the church is a balcony used by the singers and cantors during the divine services. The temple’s excellent acoustics enhance the a cappella singing of our choirs.
Because the church is a palace for the King of Kings, rich and bright colours befitting royalty are used extensively in the decoration of the interior: red, gold, white, blue, etc. This stencil is copied from a design in St. Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv, Ukraine.
“The fact that the church is the palace of God’s presence gives expression to our faith that even now earth is changed into heaven whenever the Eucharist is celebrated and divine grace is received.” (All citations from Fr. Anthony M. Coniaris, “A Personal Welcome to the Orthodox Church” (pamphlet). Minneapolis: Light and Life, 1970.)