Onion Dome Lands
by Paul Bass | Aug 10, 2012 2:05 pm
As a century-old congregation watched in awe, a 120-ton crane lifted a 14-foot gold-leafed cross and 5-ton copper cupola 120 feet into the air Friday morning and placed it on a perch high above the flats of Westville.
The long-awaited return of the iconic cross and dome took place at Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church at the corner of Alden and Burton Streets.
Storms damaged the dome last fall. The church has since spent about a half-million dollars (mostly covered by insurance) restoring and and modifying it. The process, undertaken lovingly by Woodbridge Roofing, took four months; at the end the church hired round-the-clock security in its parking lot so copper thieves wouldn’t make off with the three-story high dome before it could return to the top of the building. (Click here for a previous story on the project.)
A crowd of neighbors and members of the 185-member congregation assembled to watch the crew from Branford’s Smedley Crane & Rigging use 148 feet of the crane’s 233 feet of boom to raise and then lower the cross and cupola into position.
“My heart’s pumping,” said Natalie Kruchok (pictured) as she gazed upward at the completed job.
Kruchok, who’s 81 and the parish president, has had a close-up view of the church’s evolution in New Haven. She grew up attending the church when it occupied a small wooden building on Dixwell Avenue, which it built in 1915. Kruchok remembers crowds so large that attendees of midnight Easter resurrection services spilled out onto the front steps. The congregation moved to its larger current Westville home in the 1960s.
“I’m living again,” Kruchok exulted Friday morning. “I missed the cupola. That’s our son [Jesus]—the cross, the cupola.”
The festivities began at 7 a.m. as Father Michael Westerberg (pictured), who has served the congregation since 1980, sprinkled holy water on all four sides of the dome, with the help of 12-year-old altar server Victor Korman.
This cross and cupola are blessed and sanctified by the descent of the Holy Spirit and the sprinkling of this holy water in the name of the father, the son, and the Holy Spirit,” Westerberg declared.
“Amen,” responded the assembled parishioners.
Abraham Lincoln (that’s his real name), a pastor who lives on McKinley Avenue, was among the neighbors stopping by to say hello to Westerberg and view the action.
Russian missionaries brought the Orthodox Church to America in the late 1700s. They organized the Holy Transfiguration congregation in New Haven around 1903, according to Father Westerberg. Ukrainian-born Larisa Nikitina, Victor Korman’s grandmother, moved to New Haven from Russia in 1991 and has been a regular at Holy Transfiguration. She’s pictured at Friday’s event with Victor and her 10-year-old grandson Andrew.
“I’m so excited,” she said. “I’ve never seen work like this. So huge. Great work.”
She waited nervously for about two hours as the Smedley crew prepared the rigging and did the final lifting. It went off without a hitch.
Paul Lavertue of Woodbridge Roofing (pictured) noted that the church has had three cupolas in the past five decades. After Tropical Storm Irene and then wind storms later last fall, church members started noticing small clips on the ground. Then they noticed metal panels from the dome flapping in the wind. Lavertue sealed the structure temporarily, then got to work four months ago on the restoration.
He vowed not to have to return over the next five decades. The new dome, he said, is “designed to last 100 years—plus.”
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