Szypenitz Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church of St. Mary

21 km. southeast of Willingdon or 13 km. northwest of Two Hills

Two Hills County(SW-27-55-13-W4)

Szypenitz, Alberta

The name Szypenitz is derived from the name of the village Shypyntsi, Kitsman raion, Chernivetska oblast, Ukraine - just outside the city of Chernivtsi (See Map). Around 1900, families from this area (known as Bukovyna) began to settle the area between Hairy Hill and Two Hills.

In 1907, several individuals acquired land for the church and cemetery just west of the current church location. A small log church was built. It had just one room and no dome. Russian Orthodox mission priests in the area served the parish. However in 1910; this church was destroyed by fire. (1)

In June 1916; the new church burned down again under suspicious circumstatnces. Political tensions continued to escalate between the opposing Russophile and Ukrainophile groups. In 1917; the pro-Ukrainian faction separated from the parish and established the Sts. Peter and Paul Ukrainian Orthodox Church at Kalelalnd - 5 kilometers away to the southwest.

Those individuals that remained in the parish decided to build a third church. This new church was to be erected across the road from the previous second church - hoping that the new location would prevent it from the misfortune of the earlier location. 40 acres of land was purchased from Peter Eliuk to build the church. In addition, the new church was to be built out of brick - not lumber, making it harder for the church to be burnt again. Harry Osiecki (a well known church-builder from Vegreville) was commissioned to oversee the construction of the new church. He was also involved in the construction of the second church. By 1919, the current church was built. (2)

Throughout the 1920-30s, there was continuous political upheaval between the Russophile and the Ukrainophile supporters in the congregation. It was not until September 1941 that a majority of parishioners decided to follow their priest Reverand Ambrose Chrustawka and leave the Russian Orthodox Church in favour of the Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church of Canada. (3)

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Oriented on the east-west axis, the church is designed on a central longitudinal cruciform plan following Byzantine traditions. This tripartite structure has an apse, with a large central dome with a small dome over the narthex. The building has a common brickwork pattern, rounded windows on the east and west sides. In addition, there are semi-circular windows on the dome, apse, and on each side of the narthex and nave. The site is surrounded by flat arable land. (4)

The entrance is located on the southwest corner of the building. One enters the narthex through a small vestibule under the choir loft. The narthex leads into the nave and a chancel on a raised floor. Within the chancel there is the sanctuary that surrounds the altar. There is a 3-tiered iconostasis.

A large drum fixture rises from the intersection of the roofs over the nave. The structure then supports a high octagonal (onion-shaped) dome. A large wrought iron cross sits on top of the dome.

The interior is heavily decorated with a variety of stenciling and icons. In 1929, Peter Lipinski did all the artistic paintings and decorations for the Church, including the iconostasis. According to a church pamphlet, the costs for the various icons would range from, "a small icon would cost $25 and a large icon would cost $50". (5)

In 1919, a wooden bell tower with three (3) bells was erected by the church.