Located west of Argo Park in the old Russian-Serbian neighborhood of Globeville is Holy Transfiguration of Christ Orthodox Cathedral, constructed in 1898 by church parishioners. The building is approximately 65 feet long and 35 feet wide. With its gold onion dome visible from Interstate 70, the church sits on the southwest corner of East 47th and Logan Streets in the Globeville neighborhood of Denver, Colorado. Mature trees line 47th Avenue, and separate the church from the two-story, brick rectory, which was constructed in 1914. Immediately behind the church is the parish hall. In 2010, the hall was dedicated as Hirsch Hall in memory of Father Joe and Matushka Paulette who served the parish and neighborhood for over 25 years. The church is partially surrounded on the south and east edges of the property by an ornate wrought iron fence, which originally graced Denver's old Union Station.
The architectural style of the church has some characteristics of rural community churches found in Eastern Europe, but is primarily in the neo-gothic style characteristic of church design in turn-of-the-century Denver: simple symmetrical form, central entrance tower, pointed windows, and suggestions of tracery in simplified materials and techniques. The basic building structure is brick, with a stucco veneer laid over the brick in the 1920s.
The simple symmetrical design of the building is reflected in the perfectly rounded apse, or rear of the church. The rounded apse is a historical feature traditionally found in many Orthodox churches, and sets the building apart from other churches constructed during this period, which feature the traditional western church form, in which the apse projects outward from the building. This feature is also found on Orthodox churches from the Vukovina region of Eastern Europe, from which the majority of the original Carpatho-Russian parishioners immigrated.
In the early 1920s, the original red brick church was covered by a white stucco veneer. Between 1932 and 1936, the bell tower was altered and a small Russian-type onion dome was constructed beneath the existing cross. At this time, the four "spires" on the corners of the bell tower roof were also removed. In 1985, this onion dome was removed and replaced with a new onion dome and cross copied from St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow. The original cross was removed at this time and placed in the Orthodox section of Riverside Cemetery.
The peak of the onion dome and the peak of the apse form two sides of an equilateral triangle. The three bells still in use in the tower are set to the Slavic scale, and were a gift to the church from Nicholas II, the last Czar of Russia. The rafter tails under the eaves of the church are hand-carved. The windows are stained-glass in a peaked, Gothic style, and there is a circular window combining stained-glass and painted glass in the rear of the apse. The windows are double-hung sash with a wood frame. The doors of the church are wooden, double-leaf doors with an iron gate. The Gothic style windows are unusual for an Orthodox church, where rounded windows are usually preferred. The Gothic style, which was the popular style for ecclesiastic architecture in
Denver at the time of construction, may have been selected because a contractor familiar with Eastern church architecture could not be found. What is unique in this building, however, is the joining of the Gothic style with a round apse and domed ceiling, features derived from Eastern Europe.
Also unique is the church's stand-alone flooring: the floor of the church was constructed separately on piles driven into the ground beneath the church structure, and is not connected to the walls or structure of the church itself.
The interior of the church features a small, rectangular narthex, or entryway, and an almost square nave which is separated from the altar area in the traditional Orthodox manner by an iconostas, or icon screen. The rounded, domed ceiling of the nave and altar are in conformity with Eastern Orthodox church style, in which the ceiling of the church represents the dome of heaven. The Russian Orthodox style contrasts with many Western, Gothic churches in its ceiling form, which features a linear peak in the ceiling. The domed ceiling is topped by an icon of Christ Pantocrator in the traditional Orthodox manner.
Originally built in 1904 by parishioners, the wooden iconostas is an excellent example of late 19th century Russian style. The iconostas is pierced by three doors; the large, Royal Doors in the middle and a Deacon's door on each side. It is topped above the Royal Doors by a distinctive three-bar cross surmounting a crescent moon; a feature derived from Russian tradition and representing the triumph of Orthodox Christians over Islam. The icons on the front of the iconostas are entirely the work of the late Tamara Lazaloff of Paris, France and Theodore Jurevich, two of the more renown iconographers, or icon painters, of the 20th Century.
The central chandelier is original to the building, and originally held wax candles until it was electrified in the 1950s. In the altar, which in an Orthodox church consists of all the space behind the iconostas, is the alter table, which was carved in France in the 1960s. The original altar table, which is of traditional Russian peg and beam construction, was built by St. Tikhon and two assisting priests at the time of the consecration of the church in 1905. It is now contained within the present Altar Table, which was constructed around and over it.