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Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception Registered Heritage Structure

Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Harbour Grace, NL
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Harbour Grace, NL
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Harbour Grace, NL

Statement of Significance

Formal Recognition Type

Registered Heritage Structure

Description of Historic Place

Built in 1899, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception is a stone cathedral built in the Gothic Revival style. With its towering spires, the Cathedral is an important element of the cultural landscape of Harbour Grace, NL. This designation is confined to the footprint of the building.

Heritage Value

The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception was designated a Registered Heritage Structure by the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador in 1990 due to its aesthetic, historic and cultural value.

The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception has aesthetic value as it is an excellent example of a stone church built in the Gothic Revival style. The Cathedral is the showpiece for the Catholic Church in this region and this is evident through the elaborate architecture and detailing. The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception employs many Gothic features on the exterior and interior including the lancet windows, buttresses and vaulted ceiling in the nave. The cruciform layout of the Cathedral is also typical of the Gothic style but it was not common in rural Newfoundland churches built during this period. This Cathedral also has a number of unusual and somewhat ostentatious features that contribute to its architectural value. In particular, there is an apse at the end of the chancel that is five-sided rather than semi-circular and the three central panels of the apse hold elaborate stained glass windows. On the exterior of the apse, each of the five sides rises to create an individual peak. Furthermore, the two large wooden spires on the towers flanking the west entrance

The elaborate design of this church was not common in Newfoundland during the Victorian Period and thus it is apparent that this church was built to stand out. Furthermore, the stone construction was atypical, as most churches were constructed of wood in rural Newfoundland. The use of locally quarried stone as well as some imported stone once again indicates the importance of the Cathedral to the community. It also speaks to the prosperity enjoyed by Harbour Grace during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception has further aesthetic value as a defining landmark on the cultural landscape of Harbour Grace, with its towering spires being visible from both land and sea.

The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception has historic value for the role it served to the Catholic community of Harbour Grace and the surrounding region. It served as the seat of the Diocese from its construction until 1953, an area that encompassed all of Conception Bay, the northeast coast of the island, and Labrador. This Cathedral is also important as a historical symbol of the rise of Roman Catholicism in Newfoundland after the Emancipation Act of 1832.

The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception has cultural value as a physical testament to the importance of the church to the community of Harbour Grace. The fact that this is the second Cathedral built by parishioners in Harbour Grace speaks to the determination of the Catholic community in Conception Bay. The size and scale of the church reflect the importance of the church during this period and the continued growth of the church in the period after the Emancipation Act.

Source: Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador property file “Harbour Grace - Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception – FPT 1553”

Character Defining Elements

All those exterior features that are representative of the Gothic Revival style of architecture including:
-lancet windows;
-stone construction and use of stone buttresses;
-five sided apse with peaked roofs;
-building scale, massing, size, fenestration pattern at time of designation.

All those interior features that are representative of the Gothic Revival style of architecture including;
-vaulted ceiling in nave;
-cruciform layout.

All those features related to the environmental value of the property including;
-open space and mature trees in the lot surrounding the building;
-location of Cathedral in community;
-spires on west façade.

Location and History

Community Harbour Grace
Municipality Town of Harbour Grace
Civic Address Water Street
Significant 1899 - 1899
Style Gothic Revival
Building Plan Cruciform with Apse