Vegreville is a town in central Alberta, Canada with a population of just over 5000. It is located 103 km (64 mi) east of Alberta's capital city, Edmonton. Its primary economic base of the town is agricultural. A large percentage of Vegreville's population is of Ukrainian Canadian descent. The world's largest pysanka was created to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in 1974 and to celebrate Vegreville's ethnic heritage.

Why a  pysanka?  The excuse given was that the pysanka symbolized “the peace and security the Mounties had offered the area’s pioneers and their descendants.”  The pysanka has become a de facto symbol of Ukraine world round, and this was a way to make a large statement about the area’s origins.

The geometry of the egg shape is quite complex--it is not just a simple ovoid shape. Professor Ronald Resch, a computer scientist at the University of Utah, took on the design project, which required the development of new computer programs.  This was a very complex undertaking at the time, and involved the first computer modeling of an egg.

From the Vegreville Pysanka web site:

“....The Pysanka is really an immense jigsaw puzzle containing 524 star patterns, 1,108 equilateral triangles, 3,512 visible facets, 6,978 nuts and bolts, and 177 internal struts.

“...Thousands of tourists from around the world visit Vegreville annually and marvel at the Pysanka. It measures 25.7 feet long, 18 feet wide, and stands 31 feet high. It is one of the premier tourist attractions on the Yellowhead Highway.

“The 2,000 pound aluminum skin is attached to the central mast at a 30-degree angle with 177 turnbuckle struts. Cessco International Ltd., Edmonton, fabricated the massive internal structure that weighs 3,000 pounds. The Pysanka rests on a 27,000 pound base of concrete and steel and turns in the wind like a weathervane.

“Paul Sembaliuk, an authority on traditional Easter egg design, used three colors – bronze, silver and gold – to symbolize prosperity. Bronze is the predominant color of the design and suggests the “good earth”, the land on which our forefathers struggled for survival and existence.

Vegreville Pysanka with traditional Ukrainian dancers

“Five distinct symbols make up the design. The radiating gold stars on the end sections symbolize Life and Good Fortune. The three-pointed stars, in alternating gold and silver, symbolize the Trinity, representing the strong devotion to the faith of our ancestors. The band of silver circumscribing the Pysanka, with no beginning or end, symbolizes Eternity.

“On the central barrel section, gold and silver windmills with six vanes and points symbolize a Rich Harvest. The most prominent motif of the design – the silver wolf’s teeth that point to the center from the silver band – symbolize the main message of Protection and Security afforded our pioneers by the R.C.M.P.

“The dedication message is written in four languages: English, Ukrainian, French and German. It reads: ‘This Pysanka (Easter Egg) symbolizes the harmony, vitality and culture of the community and is dedicated as a tribute to the One-Hundredth Anniversary of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police who brought peace and security to the largest multi-cultural settlement in all of Canada.’”

It is an amazing work of art and engineering.  My only quibble with it is that six-pointed stars were used instead of the more traditional eight-pointed ones.  I assume that this was due to geometrical considerations, not symbolic ones.

.....Sometimes art imitates life.  On a recent visit to the Museum of the Pysanka in Kolomiya, I discovered this in one of their glass cases:

It is a copy of the Vegreville pysanka executed on an egg, with a photo of the metal original behind it. Will wonders never cease!

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Vegreville Pysanka with Canadian Mounties

The World’s Largest Pysanka