Fire damages Iqaluit’s ‘igloo’ cathedral

Published November 7, 2005

St. Jude’s Cathedral in Iqaluit (pictured here in a 1980 photo), which suffered a fire on Nov. 5, is an Arctic landmark and tourist attraction.

Igloo-shaped St. Jude’s Cathedral in Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut territory, was extensively damaged by fire on the night of Nov. 5.

"There is a lot of heat, smoke and fire damage inside. The structure is still standing. From the outside, you only see some smoke damage at the front door," said Iqaluit acting fire chief Gregory Jewers in a telephone interview.

The fire broke out shortly after 9 p.m. and was under control by 2 a.m., he said. The fire marshal is investigating the possibility of arson and a dollar estimate of the damage was not available. Mr. Jewers also said some of the cathedral’s art and artifacts were damaged.

"The church is at the heart of the community. We do 99 per cent of the funerals here. The soup kitchen is part of our ministry. The hall is used by community groups. The church has such historic value," said Rev. Ron McLean, rector of St. Jude’s. He was allowed by fire officials to tour the blackened church, but said he could not disclose details of the damage while the fire marshal’s investigation was underway.

Queen Elizabeth II participated in a sod-turning ceremony in 1970 and the first service took place in 1972, said Mr. McLean. The church is a white half-dome shape, similar to the iconic Inuit snow house, with a spire atop the dome. It is an Arctic landmark and tourist attraction. St. Jude was decorated by Inuit artisans who contributed such unique items as a pulpit shaped like an upturned sled, a baptismal font made of soapstone in the shape of an Inuit oil lamp and a cross made of narwhal tusks. It offers services in both English and Inuktitut.

The cathedral was in the midst of a campaign to raise $7 million for renovation and expansion. As of June, 2005, $500,000 had been raised.


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