Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Ascension of Our Lord Byzantine Catholic Church

Located at 318 Park Avenue in the small city of Clairton, Pennsylvania, Ascension is the largest Byzantine Catholic Church in the city.

Ascension of Our Lord Byzantine Catholic Church was founded in 1907 in the heavily-industrial city of Clairton by Ruthenian immigrants from the Carpathian Mountains of the Austro-Hungarian Dual Monarchy. They worshiped according to the Greek or Byzantine rite, following the Julian Calendar as well as using the Cyrillic alphabet, under the Pope of Rome. The Church was rebuilt in 1981.

The well-maintained building was designed by Joseph Balobek who has built most of the modern churches in the surrounding areas. Balobek, a 30-plus year veteran of architecture, has worked on more than 800 projects; he creates unique designs for not only modern churches, but also residential housing. The style is that of a rotunda with a Byzantine arch. The Pantocrator is the highest dome in the church and represents the upholding of all things; it also houses paintings of the four evangelists: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The building is predominantly red brick, with the inside mostly marble with wooden pews. Small domes are seen in the archway as well as quarter domes on the side of the brick auditorium and rectory. The outside of the church is red brick and contemporary styled. Outside a small semi-courtyard can be found.

The entire church interior was gloriously hand-painted by Mila Mina, mother of the current pastor Fr. Ivan Mina. The Icon phase marble alter stand in the front of the church with dignity facing the wooden pews. The interior also houses various scenes from The Bible including Jesus on the cross and The Trinity.

Byzantine iconography sees the church as a microcosm of heaven and earth, united through salvation. The highest point of the domed ceiling houses an icon of Christ. In the apse the Blessed Mother Mary is shown mid-prayer. At the back of the sanctuary the apostles are nourished by Christ’s body and blood. Lower on the walls women saints are seen on the left side while men are on the right, as is tradition in the Byzantine churches of Europe. The back wall shows the Judgment, as well as Heaven and Hell. The altar area, separated from the nave of the church, has four great icons: St. John the Baptist, who points to the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world; the Blessed Mother holding the Christ Child; Christ the Teacher; and the patronal icon of the church, namely, the icon of the Ascension.

Name: Ascension of our Lord Byzantine Church
Location: 318 Park Ave. Clairton Pa, 15025
Religious Affiliation: Byzantine Catholic
Date of Construction: 1981
Architect: Joseph Balobek (Pittsburgh)
Building Style: Modern brick constructed with Byzantine influence and archways
Plan Type: Modern Byzantine influence
Primary Materials: Brick, marble, wood
Status: Active

Personal Interview with Fr. Ivan Mila
Church website
Architect Joseph Balobek website

researched by Leah Sporio

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