Construction of new St. Jude’s Cathedral to begin in June

Published April 16, 2009

Conceptual drawing of the new St. Jude’s Cathedral in Iqaluit, diocese of the Arctic.

After more than three years of waiting for enough funds to come in, initial construction of the new St. Jude’s Cathedral in Iqaluit is scheduled to begin in June.

“We are finally in a position to assemble the blocks and construct the dome and main entrance area. This will be covered with a layer of plywood and traps to protect it against winter weather,” the diocese of the Arctic said in a press statement. It added that if an additional $250,000 is raised before June 15, materials would be ordered to complete the roofing of the facility.

The diocese has raised $3 million, but needs about $3.5 million more to complete the project, according to Debra Gill, executive officer of the diocese. A fundraising effort was launched shortly after the original igloo-shaped Cathedral was destroyed by arson in November 2005. The building was later demolished after being declared structurally unsafe by a building inspector.

“FSC Architects and Engineers have created a bold and visionary plan for the new cathedral,” said the diocese. The new cathedral will maintain the original vaulted igloo design, but will use “a very old, local building technique in a novel way to achieve the shape.” It will use slightly curved building blocks which, when fitted together, will resemble an igloo. The blocks are designed by Vancouver-based Canadian Wooden Domes ( Ron Thom, the famous Canadian architect whose other well-known portfolio include the University of Toronto’s Massey College and Trent University Library, designed the original St. Jude’s Cathedral in 1967; construction of what has since been regarded as an architectural jewel in the eastern Arctic did not begin until 1972.

“The design for the replacement of St. Jude’s retains the best elements of the original while bringing the building up to modern standards,” said the diocese. The concept of a curved interior “capped by a beautiful skylight” will be kept. Wooden beams that were partly charred have been refinished and will be used as curved benches around the perimeter of the cathedral.

Like the old St. Jude’s, the new cathedral will showcase Inuit culture. A Narwhal cross will be mounted on a “zinc backdrop,” which the architectural firm said would not only highlight the cross but improve acoustics. “A new feature of undulating waves, clouds or snowdrifts” will be added to the interior design, also to improve acoustics.

The new cathedral will seat 375 people in chairs plus 56 more on benches; the old cathedral used to seat only 250 people. It also leaves room for growth – the design accommodates a future balcony.

Other additions include a Sunday school room, choir room, nursery, sacristy and offices. “The previous cathedral never had washrooms or running water and the children always had to meet in the parish hall (a separate building) for Sunday school,” the diocese noted. It added that the new structure will now make it possible for the diocese to host more outreach programs and community gatherings and make it truly “a spiritual home for all Anglicans” across the diocese.

Since the cathedral is being constructed as funds are being raised, the diocese is making an appeal to Anglicans across Canada to make a donation. “For three years now, the landscape where the cathedral once stood is quiet. There are no bells ringing on Sunday mornings to summon people to church and the cross that once stood high on top of the cathedral no longer shines out as a welcoming beacon during the long, dark hours of winter,” said the diocese. “We need your help to ‘rekindle a Northern Light.”

The diocese added that the costs of doing business in the Arctic are extremely high.

“When two litres of 2% milk cost $8.99, a 2 kg bag flour costs $14.50 and a case of 24 Coca Cola costs $24 by the time it reaches Iqaluit – just imagine what the shipping costs are for lumber and other building materials.”

Donations for the St. Jude’s Cathedral project can be made to: Diocese of the Arctic, P.O. Box 190, Yellowknife, N.W.T., X1A 2N2. Tax receipts will be issued.


  • Marites N. Sison

    Marites (Tess) Sison was editor of the Anglican Journal from August 2014 to July 2018, and senior staff writer from December 2003 to July 2014. An award-winning journalist, she has more that three decades of professional journalism experience in Canada and overseas. She has contributed to The Toronto Star and CBC Radio, and worked as a stringer for The New York Times.

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