Our Lady of Victory Church was designed to resemble a large igloo, a temporary Inuit hunting shelter made of blocks of snow. It’s located nearly 125 miles north of the Arctic Circle in Inuvik, one of Canada’s most northerly towns.
Brother Maurice Larocque, the church’s architect, was a Catholic missionary with a background in carpentry. He had no formal architectural training. Larocque sketched his plans on two pieces of plywood that can now be seen on a set of stairs inside the church.
His blueprints for the igloo-shaped structure were so confusing, construction of the church was finished without a proper permit because the federal government couldn’t understand them. Local volunteers spent two years building the church, which opened in 1960.
The wood for the church was floated nearly 1,200 miles down the Mackenzie River, as there are few trees in the Arctic area. The building itself had to be constructed to accommodate the shifting permafrost that swells beneath the ground. It’s one of the reasons the church is shaped like an igloo. Its concrete basement and the intricate wooden arches supporting the domed structure help hold its weight atop the sometimes unreliable ground. The church is the only major building in Inuvik that doesn’t rest upon or rely on special adfreeze piles.
Know Before You Go
Tours are available during the summer months.