This nativity scene above the main entrance to St. Joseph’s Ukrainian Catholic Church is a rare example of Byzantine iconography in stained glass. Photo courtesy of Eccliesiastical Art & Design, Ltd.

Nativity puts Byzantine art on grand scale at Winnipeg Ukrainian Church

  • December 19, 2016

Nativity scenes are common during the Christmas season but few in Canada can match a stained glass window in a Winnipeg church for size and splendour.

Created by prominent iconographer Sviatoslav Makarenko of Yonkers, N.Y., the window is a rare example of Byzantine iconography in the leaded stained-glass medium. It dazzles above the main entrance of St. Joseph’s Ukrainian Catholic Church.

As the artist explains, the colours, placement, elongated features and otherworldliness of the depictions are integral to traditional Byzantine art. Viewers are struck not only by the window’s beauty but by its sheer size, nearly 400 square feet (21 x 19) across 39 colourful panels.

Makarenko said there were “very few historical precedents for iconography” like this before he began his stained-glass icon in 2010.

“It is not part of our Eastern Christian tradition and it is only with the advent of modern architecture and technology that an iconographer can be confronted with the problem with designing the icon of the nativity in glass in such a monumental scale,” explained Makarenko, who operates Ecclesiastical Art & Design, Ltd.

“The artistic vision in this window is to use simplicity and accuracy of line together with the clarity and purity of colour to achieve the beauty and truth of the meaning of the nativity.”

In Eastern Christian traditions, icons are more than decorations, said Fr. Dymytro Dnistrian. They are “windows to Heaven” through which God’s mercy flows, he said.

“Icons help us to experience God’s mercy, especially during times of prayer,” he said.

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