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The Convent of Our Lady of Mercy Registered Heritage Structure

The Convent of Our Lady of Mercy, St. John's, NL
The Convent of Our Lady of Mercy, St. John's, NL

Statement of Significance

Formal Recognition Type

Registered Heritage Structure

Description of Historic Place

Located on Military Road in St. John’s, NL The Convent of Our Lady of Mercy is a four storey, granite building built in the Second Empire style. The attached chapel, the Oratory of the Sacred Heart, is a granite building built in the Renaissance Revival style. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.

Heritage Value

The Convent of Our Lady of Mercy has been designated a Registered Heritage Structure by the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador due to its historic and aesthetic value.

The Convent of Our Lady of Mercy was built in 1857 under the supervision of Rt. Rev. Mullock. It was built to replace an earlier wooden convent, constructed in 1842 and situated approximately where the chapel now stands. The Oratory of the Sacred Heart chapel was built in 1892 as a memorial to the Golden Jubilee. The room that served as a chapel since 1857 became the present community room. The Sisters of Mercy are a Roman Catholic order of nuns that started their work in Newfoundland in 1842. The Order was founded in Dublin in 1831 by Sister Catherine McAuley. In 1841, Bishop Fleming decided to establish a convent and day school for families that were capable of paying educational fees. This institution would complement the existing school and convent for the poor operated by the Presentation Sisters. The Sisters of Mercy were commissioned by Bishop Fleming to accomplish this task. The Sisters of Mercy have made an important contribution to St. John’s through their work in various fields. They are known for their work in health care at St. Clare’s Mercy Hospital, their work with the elderly at St. Patrick’s Mercy Home and their work in education. The Convent of Our Lady of Mercy is historically valuable as a symbol of the work of the Sisters of Mercy in Newfoundland.

The Convent of Our Lady of Mercy is architecturally valuable as an example of the Second Empire style employed in an institutional building. Many of the typical Second Empire elements are preserved in this building including peaked dormers, a mansard roof, and eaves brackets. Furthermore, an interesting feature of the building is an M-shaped red stone on the west wall of the building. Bishop Mullock received the stone from the Motherhouse of the Carmelite Sisters in Spain. The stone was meant to link The Convent of Our Lady of Mercy with Bishop Mullock’s alma mater, the Carmelite University of Salamanca.

The Oratory of the Sacred Heart chapel is architecturally valuable as a fine example of Renaissance Revival architecture in an ecclesiastical context. Constructed of granite, the Oratory of the Sacred Heart features rusticated quoining on the exterior and has large stained glass windows. The front façade of the chapel features a large stained glass window, and a large entranceway with decorative trim. The main entrance is flanked by a small turret on each side with a statue of the Sacred Heart in the centre. It has a gambrel roof and a rounded apse with a domed ceiling at the east end. The chapel has a well-preserved interior that features many elements of the Renaissance Revival style, including a domed ceiling over the altar, elaborate plasterwork and trim painted in bright colors. There are also decorative pilasters with Corinthian capitals and intricate stained glass windows throughout the chapel.

The Convent of Our Lady of Mercy has further aesthetic value due to its environmental setting. The Convent of Our Lady of Mercy is located on Military Road near the Basilica of St. John the Baptist and Presentation Convent. Furthermore, it is one of a larger complex of ecclesiastical buildings in this area of St. John’s.

Character Defining Elements

All those elements that are representative of the Second Empire style convent, including:
-mansard roof, eaves brackets, and peaked dormers;
-window style and placement;
-single hung 1/1 windows;
-granite construction;
-M-shaped red stone on west wall;
-dormer configuration and placement;
-central window in fourth storey, and;
-transom windows over doorways.

All those exterior elements that are representative of the Renaissance Revival style chapel, including:
-window style and placement;
-granite construction;
-stained glass windows;
-statue of Sacred Heart on front facade;
-gambrel roof with apse;
-twin spires;
-rusticated quoining on exterior, and;
-interior elements including original plaster work, bright colors, faux marble work, rounded apse with domed ceiling and religious elements including elaborate altar, rail and pews.

The environmental setting, including:
-general massing;
-prominent location within the city;
-location within a larger complex of Roman Catholic buildings, and;
-location within the Ecclesiastical District of St. John's.

Notes of Interest

The first convent was erected 1842, school opened May 1, 1843, infirmary December 8, 1854, stone convent 1857, new chapel 1892. In 1881 a school known as the Infant School opened. A 1913 extension to the convent provided a kitchen, refectory & sleeping quarters. In 1920 the cornerstone was laid for a new school and it opened on October 12, 1921. In 1941 a gymnasium was built.

Location and History

Community St. John's
Municipality City of St. John's
Civic Address 170 Military Road
Construction 1857 - 1857
Style Second Empire
Building Plan Rectangular Long Façade
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