Winnipeg Architecture Foundation launches digital Roy Sellors exhibit


Sellors, Roy. Courtesy of the Sellors Family. (Source: Roy Sellors Fond, WAF)

The Winnipeg Architecture Foundation (WAF) is launching the new online digital exhibit “Roy Sellors, Modernism, and Building Religious Spaces in Postwar Manitoba” curated by Catherine Acebo.

Delving into Winnipeg’s abundant array of Modernist churches, this showcase highlights luminous stained glass and elegant contours. The focus lies on Roy Sellors’s church designs, delving into the dynamic connection between evolving liturgical practices and modernist architecture during the mid-twentieth century.

Roy Sellors, a distinguished architect and esteemed professor at the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Architecture, played a pivotal role in shaping Winnipeg’s architectural panorama. Beyond creating an impressive portfolio encompassing residential homes and institutional structures, he also contributed to the design of churches that epitomized the emergence of modernist architecture and the liturgical movement during the mid-twentieth century.

249 Arnold Avenue, Our Lady of Victory Church (Source: Roy Sellors Fond, WAF)

During the sixteenth century, the old liturgy established strict guidelines for constructing acceptable churches. Abiding by these rules, churches were designed with the purpose of creating a separation between the congregation and the priest, achieved through long basilica plans, separate chancels, and altar rails.

However, a theological scholarship emerged, shedding light on the more communal origins of worship, inspiring the liturgical movement. This movement challenged the individualistic approach of the old liturgy and sought to foster more engaging expressions of faith. In the new liturgy, priests faced the nave, directly interacting with the congregation. Unlike the old liturgy, which restricted parishioners to the altar’s railing, the new liturgy welcomed them into the sanctuary for readings and an offertory procession, bringing bread and wine to the altar.

With the postwar era, the liturgical movement gained further traction, leading parishes to embrace modern architecture for church design, as it better aligned with the evolving methods of worship. The movement’s inclination to remove unnecessary elements from worship resonated with the modernist movement’s pursuit of clarity and order in design.

The Second Vatican Council (1962–1965) addressed the changing nature of worship and its impact on church architecture. In 1963, Pope XXIII officially endorsed innovative design and building techniques for sacred spaces. Sellors had already been using modern architecture to create religious buildings that embraced these evolving ideas well before this official endorsement.

Sellors is known for his work on Our Lady of Victory Memorial Parish, St. Vital Roman Catholic Parish Church, Cornerstone Baptist Church (formerly Beulah Baptist Church and Oakview First Baptist Church), St. Joseph the Worker Church, St. Bernadette Parish Centre and Our Lady of Perpetual Help Roman Catholic Church.

“Longitudinal Section A-A, South Elevation (Arnold), North Elevation (Arnold) (Our Lady of Victory Memorial Church, Osborne St. at Arnold Avenue, Winnipeg, Manitoba, March 26, 1954).” Sheet 4. Roll 103 541 Our Lady of Victory Church. (Source: Roy Sellors Fond, WAF)

All architectural drawings featured in the exhibit have been procured from WAF’s Roy Sellors fonds. Credit goes to archivist Ian Keenan for preparing the Finding Aid, while the digitization of these drawings was made possible by the Documentary Heritage Communities Programme.

For more information about the online exhibit, click here.