The Holy Ascension Orthodox Cathedral at Unalaska and its associated Bishop’s House are the most outstanding reflections of a Russian heritage which has permeated the Aleutian Chain from the 1750’s to the present. The site was the source of a Russian missionary outreach which was so successful that to this day most Aleuts, who are still a majority of the population of the Aleutian Islands, consider Orthodoxy an integral part of their culture. The site is associated as well with the career of the first resident Orthodox bishop of Alaska, Innocent (Rev. Veniaminov), who also made lasting contributions to architecture, linguistics, ethnography, historical documentation, public health, and cultural adaptation, and who was recently canonized a saint of the Orthodox Church world-wide. From its beginnings, the church was identified with education and literacy; from the 1890’s, the church also was a provider of social services and administration for a vast region.
Its influence was wide-spread throughout northern Alaska, and it was a counterpart to the Cathedral in Sitka, which also is a National Historic Landmark. The church itself, built in 1894-1896 in the cruciform style, with three altars, is the oldest church of this type in Alaska. Its utensils, mostly associated with Bishop and Saint Innocent, are especially fine, and its icons are of rare quality. The iconostas of the Chapel of St. Innocent also demonstrates the craftsmanship and artistry of the Aleut people themselves.
ROSSIA is very pleased to report the beginning of phase 1 of work on Holy Ascension Cathedral, one of Alaska’s most prized National Historic Landmarks. Through a grant award from Rasmuson Foundation (2013), ROSSIA has completed a site assessment and design of the highly specialized Hi-Fog Mist fire suppression system.
We are working with the Holy Ascension parish and community of Unalaska to protect the church and icons within from fire with the installation of the Hi-Fog Mist fire suppression system, and to complete historic renovations on the Bishop’s House on site.