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Lamont County revives tour of 47 local churches

The Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes, also known as the Skaro Shrine, was built in 1919 and is located 15 kilometres north of the Town of Lamont. (Submitted by Jay Zaal - image credit)
The Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes, also known as the Skaro Shrine, was built in 1919 and is located 15 kilometres north of the Town of Lamont. (Submitted by Jay Zaal - image credit)

A revamped tour of more than 47 churches in Lamont County, around 25 kilometres east of Edmonton, is now being offered online.

Jay Zaal, a communications coordinator with Lamont County, told Radio Active host Jessica Ng that the county wants to show its unique history through this renewed tour.

"There's a lot of historical facts in our tours, broken down for each church with some of the history, some of the artwork, and some of the design. It's very comprehensive," Zaal said.

Zaal said that Lamont County is considered the church capital of North America because of the region's high number of churches per capita.

He attributed the county's vast variety of churches to settlers from various backgrounds wanting to connect to their traditional cultural beliefs to help them "get through each day in a new country."

Zaal said that the earliest origins of some of the churches in Lamont County stretch back to 1886 as a way for settlers to establish a sense of community.

St. Mary’s Holy Dormition Russo-Greek Orthodox Catholic Church (Shishkovitzi) was built in 1953, and is located near Shandro, Alta.
St. Mary’s Holy Dormition Russo-Greek Orthodox Catholic Church (Shishkovitzi) was built in 1953, and is located near Shandro, Alta.

St. Mary’s Holy Dormition Russo-Greek Orthodox Catholic Church (Shishkovitzi) was built in 1953, and is located near Shandro, Alta. (Submitted by Jay Zaal)

Previous guided and booklet versions of the church tour ended in 2012, but the new digital tour offers new audio and video guides, as well as an online pamphlet. It's something Shane Olson, an Economic Development Officer with Lamont County, said will make it more accessible to users than the previous version.

"The churches have played a very important role in shaping the cultural life of people in this region for a long time, and it makes sense that we would want to share that with the motoring public," Olson said.

"We've tried to make it as easy as possible for somebody to come out, drive around, take the tour and experience the unique culture of Lamont County," said Zaal.

Olson said cultural tourism options like the county's church tour are in growing demand.

"There's a segment of the population that's very much interested in historic places and churches and understanding the roots of some of our earlier settlers in the area. So there's a demand for this kind of thing," Olson said.

"This is a self-guided opportunity," said Olson. "You could do it all at once over a weekend or over a period of time."

Siracky Chapel is located northeast of Mundare. It's also known as the Church of the Weary Traveller.
Siracky Chapel is located northeast of Mundare. It's also known as the Church of the Weary Traveller.

Siracky Chapel is located northeast of Mundare. It's also known as the Church of the Weary Traveller. (Submitted by Jay Zaal)

Zaal said that ambitious tour participants could visit all 47 churches in one weekend depending on how long people want to stay at each site.

"If people want to spend time on the website in advance, it would help them try to figure out a couple [churches] they would like to go to," said Olson.

He advised those interested in doing a tour to contact individual congregations and churches to see if getting a look inside the building is possible.

Oslon said one of the highlights of the tour is the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes, also known as the Skaro Shrine, located 15 kilometres north of the town of Lamont.

The grotto is the site of a pilgrimage that has been drawing thousands of people each year every August for more than a century.