Sanctuary: The Spiritual Documentation Project

This project conducts fieldwork across the Canadian prairies photographing Byzantine – primarily Ukrainian – ritual, churches and church contents. The team will also conduct interviews about ritual practice, and will soon add information about sacral sound. This work comes at a crucial time. Ukrainians are noted for their religious faith and accompanying sacral culture; their devotion produced the hundreds of distinctive, onion-domed buildings which dot the prairie landscape. This is the most significant post-Byzantine cultural colonization anywhere in the New World, and yet it is under threat as demographic changes lead to the closing and destruction of churches. This work creates a record of buildings and objects that are about to disappear but that still hold tremendous emotional importance to the people who made them. It is also producing a database of unprecedented size and detail which will allow scholars and decision-makers to better understand the process of Canadianization. The Ukrainian experience of negotiating the fine line between assimilating into the Canadian mainstream and maintaining ethnic identity and distinctiveness can serve as a case study in the importance of heritage preservation and the role of religion in maintaining cultural identity.

For further information about this project please see


Natalie Kononenko

Modern Languages & Cultural Studies
2015 Cluster Grant

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