Will Iqaluit’s igloo-shaped cathedral rise from the ashes?

Construction of St. Jude's Cathedral in Iqaluit has begun. Photo: Contributed
Construction of St. Jude's Cathedral in Iqaluit has begun. Photo: Contributed
Published September 8, 2010

They are building it, and they hope the money to finish it will come. It is St. Jude’s Cathedral in Iqaluit.

The diocese of the Arctic has been trying to rebuild the distinctive igloo-shaped cathedral since the original structure, built in the 1970s, was burned by arson in 2005. Now, construction of the exterior has begun.

The diocese has raised about $2 million, but still needs an estimated $1.25 million to finish the first phase of the project. Earlier this year, construction got the green light even though more money needs to be raised. “They went on faith,” says interim rector Canon Brian Burrows of the decision, “and that’s what we’re doing now.”

Construction will take place in two phases. Construction of the exterior will be completed by the end of October 2010, and the diocese would like to complete the interior of the cathedral by Christmas 2011, says Canon Burrows.”We’re working very hard, but obviously we need large amounts [of money] to finish it. That’s the hope, that’s the prayer.” An estimate for the funds needed to finish the interior is not yet available. While donations from across the country are “significant,” he adds, “they’re in thousand range, whereas what we need is [in] the hundred thousand range.”

Steel ribbing in the distinctive round shape is going up now and will be covered with a metal cladding and then insulated. The foundation is already in place, although large wooden blocks–part of the plan used by the original building company that pulled out after filing for bankruptcy–will be not be used. It is hoped the blocks can be re-purposed, says Canon Burrows.

Debra Gill, executive officer of the diocese of the Arctic, explained that insurance only covered the replacement cost of the original cathedral exactly as it was, but it was already too small for the congregation before the fire. Building codes had also changed significantly since the original structure was built, so the cost of an expanded building that complies with new codes increased the amount of money that needed to be raised significantly, she said.

Canon Burrows estimates that St. Jude’s draws an average of 350 worshippers at its Sunday services. Since the fire, they have been meeting in the parish hall. Seeing the building take shape has given the community a big morale boost. “We had this little blessing ceremony beforehand,” he explains, “… and Bishop Idlout said to me that ‘At this time last year, we didn’t have any hopes whatsoever [but] now…everybody is getting excited and hope is rising again.'”

Editor’s note: This article has been corrected according to new information provided by the diocese of the Arctic.


  • Leigh Anne Williams

    Leigh Anne Williams joined the Anglican Journal in 2008 as a part-time staff writer. She also works as the Canadian correspondent for Publishers Weekly, a New York-based trade magazine for the book publishing. Prior to this, Williams worked as a reporter for the Canadian bureau of TIME Magazine, news editor of Quill & Quire, and a copy editor at The Halifax Herald, The Globe and Mail and The Bay Street Bull.

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