The Look of an Eastern Christian Church

st. michael 4
Eastern architecture at St. Michael the Archangel Ukrainian Catholic Church in Baltimore Maryland is easily recognizable with its multiple onion domes.

outside cathedral

Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of Immaculate Conception in Philadelphia PA with its massive golden dome and new bell tower (on right). The exterior of the cathedral was modeled after the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, and a stone from the tomb of St. Peter the Apostle was incorporated into the cornerstone. St. John Paul II visited this Cathedral on October 4th, 1979. Photo credit: Cathedral of Immaculate Conception

haggue sopia ?

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

bell tower

Bell Tower outside the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of Immaculate Conception.  Photo credit: Cathedral of Immaculate Conception


Details of an Eastern Orthodox Church. Note the Templon is also called the Iconostasis.

The Narthex or entrance to the church symbolizes this world, the nave or pews represents the Church. Across the front of the church is the Iconostasis wall that separates the nave or pews from the sanctuary or altar, which symbolizes the Kingdom of God on Earth. No layman is permitted inside the Sanctuary.

overview of immaculate conception cathedralNarthex. Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of Immaculate Conception, Philadelphia PA. 11/15 Eastern Catholic Church in the Ukrainian Byzantine rite.

On the Holy Table in the Sanctuary are placed the Book of Gospels and the Holy Gifts during the Divine Liturgy, and in the center of the table stands the tabernacle (artopohorion) containing the reserved Eucharist.

dome of cathedral overview photo
The cupola or inside the dome symbolizes the sky and in an Orthodox tradition, at the top, inside the dome, is Christ the Pantocrator, the Ruler of All. Depicted below him, around the dome, are the central act of worship, the Divine Liturgy; the Twelve Apostles; and major prophets and other figures of the Old Testament.

iconostansis cathedralIconostatis at Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of Immaculate Conception, Philadelphia PA.
The central doors or Royal Doors of the iconostatis are shown open.  The Iconostatis represents the natural boundary between God and man; earth and Heaven.

main door of Iconostasis

The closed Royal Doors of the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception showing the gospel writers flanked by Jesus on the right and Mary with the child Jesus on the left. Only religious walk through these doors.

iconstansis immaculate conceptionPhoto credit: Cathedral of Immaculate Conception

More on the Iconostasis: Next to Mary, the shorter icon is Archangel Michael one one of the side doors or deacon doors. On the far left is St. Nicholas.  Next to the Jesus icon, is also a deacon door shown as St. Stephen and on the far right is St. John the Baptist.

Above are the Great feasts of the Church and the round icons atop the iconostasis are the Old Testament Prophets. The apostles are the rectangular icons. At the center top are the icons of Last Supper and Christ Enthroned.

liturgy behind the iconastastis
Divine liturgy in the sanctuary, behind the Iconostatis as viewed from the narthex. Photo credit: Cathedral of Immaculate Conception

The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom is the one most commonly celebrated liturgies throughout the year. The longer Liturgy of St. Basil the Great is celebrated ten times a year.
note altar positionHis Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk at the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Philadelphia, PA celebrating Divine Liturgy on November 15, 2015. He is the Major Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. Photo: Cathedral of Immaculate Conception.

Inside the sanctuary located behind an icon screen, represents Heaven, the dwelling place of God. As shown, the Royal Doors are open showing the altar and tabernacle inside the sanctuary. Note His Beatitude is talking outside the sanctuary, closest to the congregation (representing earth).

Holy Archangel Michael Byzantine Catholic ChurchHoly Archangel Michael Byzantine Catholic Church, Mount Claire PA. In communion with the Bishop of Rome (the Pope). Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Passaic, NJ. Photo credit: Holy Archangel Michael Byzantine Church.

Most of the Eastern Catholic parishes on the east coast of the United States are small parishes with 400-500 parishioners, yet closely knit, vibrant and conveniently located in towns of all sizes. Holy Archangel Michael Byzantine Catholic Church is one of these churches. There are roughly 37 parishes in the Pennsylvania area of the Ruthenian Byzantine Catholic Church and close to 40 parishes in Pennsylvania and New Jersey within the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia.

Catholic priests with bi-ritual faculties, can celebrate the Holy Eucharist in two different traditions: the Divine Liturgy in the Eastern Catholic Byzantine tradition and the Holy Mass in the Roman Catholic Latin tradition. Fr. Mitch Pacwa of EWTN is bi-ritual and Fr. James Badeaux former pastor of Holy Archangel Michael Byzantine Church in Pennsylvania above also has bi-ritual faculties.