St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church

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Architecture and Interiors


St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church

The structures on St. John the Baptist Church grounds include the church, belfry, gate, grazhda (parish hall), and a parsonage. The construction of the church as well as other structures of the whole architectural complex was financed by Ukrainian immigrants who realized the need for a tangible expression of their heritage and were constantly vigilant in the preservation and propagation of Ukrainian culture.

Under the leadership and persevering guidance of Dr. Ivan Makarevych, who donated the land for this project, a group of Ukrainian folk art enthusiasts and Hunter-area residents embarked upon the realization of this plan in the early 1960s, working on it in stages until its successful completion in the 1980s.

Sculptor Jaroslaw Paladij built a preliminary scale model of the church, for which architect Ivan Zhukowsky drew up the necessary construction drawings. Master carpenter Jurij Kostiw, who in his early years was trained by experienced carpenters in his native Bojko region of Ukraine in the art of building blockwork churches, became the master builder of the church. The subsequent structures of the complex, for which architect Ivan Zajac drew up construction plans, were also executed by Jurij Kostiw.



The Church Structure

St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church

Built in 1962, the church is executed in the traditional (although somewhat modified) timber blockwork style of the Ukrainian Carpathian Mountain highlanders - the Hutsuls and the Bojkos. It is a 61-foot-high tripartite (three-frame) structure, built of 7 1/2' by 12" cedar logs imported from British Columbia. The logs are laid horizontally one on top of the other and secured with wooden pegs and various other joinings.

Since churches of this type are limited in size by the length of the logs, separate compartments are built and then joined to achieve greater spatial area. The three compartments of St. John the Baptist Church consist of a square nave joined to an apse (sanctuary) on one end, and a similarly smaller narthex on the opposite end. A choir loft is tucked above the narthex.

The height of the church is achieved by superimposing a somewhat narrower octagonal drum over the nave and then topping the eight-sided roof of the drum with a domed polygonal lantern.

In addition to the main entrance, there are two porticoed side entrances leading to the nave. Gabled roofs of the narthex, apse, and porticoes are topped with Baroque style lanterns. Around the perimeter of the church is a low overhanging skirt roof that sheds rainwater. It traditionally serves as protection against both rain and sun and creates a covered walkway. The overhanging roof is supported by the corner rims of massive consoles and the pillars of the porticoes. Except for a few side benches for the elderly and infirm, there are no pews in the church. In Ukraine, the congregation traditionally stood during services.



The Church Interior

The decoration of the interior of the church was executed by two prominent Ukrainian artists in the United States: Iconographer Petro Cholodny, Jr., and wood-carver/sculptor Mykhailo Chereshniowsky.

St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church

In accordance with Eastern Christian tradition, the interior of the church has an iconostasis - a screen with icons that separates the apse from the nave. The single-tiered, wood-carved iconostasis of St. John the Baptist Church, completed in 1964, spans the width of the apse and is divided into seven sections and includes the requisite three entranceways to the sanctuary: the double Royal Doors in the center, flanked by the single Deacon's Doors. Above the center, is a wood-carved triangular arch. The artist employed many folk ornamental motifs and traditional religious symbols in his wood-carvings: endless meandering lines symbolizing eternity; volutes; solar (star-shaped) discs; square crosses; and wheat stalks and grape vines with clusters of grapes. The latter, highly symbolic of the Eucharist Sacrifice in the Christian Church, is also reminiscent of the tree-of-life folk-art motif. All of the wood-carvings were worked in sugar pine wood.

Other wood-carved items in the church include the altar, tabernacle, tetrapod, gospel stand, pulpit, processional cross, the grand lampadary, and frames for the icons on the sanctuary wall and elsewhere. All were carved in the same highly stylized and aesthetically beautiful fashion, thus coordinating every aspect of the interior decor into a unified whole.


The church is decorated with two groups of icons: those that are set into the iconostasis, the wood-carved structure of the screen in front of the altar, and on the wall above the iconostasis; and those that grace the wall of the sancturay behind the altar. Their arrangement is so masterful that, looking at them from the apse, they seem to flow together into a homogeneous icon wall. The icons are executed in the Byzantine style, but the artist, Petro Cholodny, Jr., has interpreted them in the Ukrainian iconographic tradition, enriching them with his own aesthetic taste and unique artistic expression.

Although the number of icons in a church may vary, the subjects depicted, as well as their placements, are of a prescribed nature, adhering to rules that have been passed down by liturgical tradition.

St. John icon
Icon: St. John the Baptist

Icons of the Annunciation and of the four Evangelists appear on the Royal Doors. On each side of the doors, on separate panels are depictions of the Savior, the Virgin Mary with Jesus, the patron saint of the Church (St. John the Baptist), and keeping with tradition, St. Nicholas. On the Deacon's Doors are archangels, symbolizing the protection of the sanctuary. Above the Royal Doors, in the high triangular archway, is an icon of the Last Supper and above this, the Deisis (the Icon of Supplication) an enthroned Christ, flanked by his Mother, St. John the Baptist, and the twelve apostles. The sanctuary wall behind the altar has the icon of Our Lady Orans (Prayerful One).



The Bell Tower


The bell tower, planned and built by Jurij Kostiw, stands as a separate structure and is located on the right side of the entrance to the churchyard. A modified version of the traditional feature of wooden church architectural complexes in Ukraine, the bell tower is of timber-frame construction. The square, ground-level structure is open, with an interior staircase leading to an upper enclosed level and an octagonal arched gallery above it. It is topped with an eight-sided pyramidal roof, which reflects the style of the church roof, thus unifying the two structures compositionally. It houses a 2,000 pound bell from Italy and a second one from Holland.



Grazhda (Parish Hall) and Parsonage


Both buildings are of blockwork construction in keeping with the stylistic uniformity of the whole complex. The parish hall was designed by architect Ivan Zajac in the style of a wealthy landowner's home, but modified to serve as a parish hall.


Grazhda interior
The "Grazhda" hosts the summer art exhibits and concerts



The parsonage is used by a resident priest and has all the modern conveniences of a contemporary home. Both structures were built by Jurij Kostiw.



The architectural ensemble of St. John the Baptist Church adorns the Catskill landscape, culturally enriches the area, and provides a unique sight for local residents and tourists alike.

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