10 Basilicas in Canada

There are 24 Basilicas in Canada (the USA has 82) here is just a few of the Basilicas in Canada

1) St. Dunstan’s Basilica –  Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

The Catholic Church of Charlottetown dates back to 1721 when two missionary priests came to minister to the spiritual needs of the early French settlers. A small church was built at Port la Joye, an early French settlement located across the harbour from Charlottetown. This settlement, including the little church, was destroyed during the English invasion in 1758 and the inhabitants were deported to France.

Scottish Settlers
In 1772, religious persecution in Scotland prompted a number of Catholics to seek refuge in the New World. Many settled in Scotchfort, a community about 20 km east of Charlottetown. Father James MacDonald, the young priest who came with them, died in 1785 and is buried in the French cemetery in Scotchfort. Settlers were without a resident priest until Father Angus Bernard MacEachern arrived from Scotland about five years later.

Father MacEachern’s arrival marked a pivotal time in the history of the Roman Catholic Church in PEI. At the time, the Maritime Provinces were included in the Diocese of Quebec. The Bishop of Quebec granted Father MacEachern permission to administer to the native Scots in eastern PEI and the Acadians west of Malpeque. Before long, his parish included all of PEI, the Magdalen Islands, Cape Breton Island and the Northumberland Shore of Nova Scotia.

The area was vast and settlements were widespread. To transport his Mass kit and vestments, Father MacEachern crafted a small horse-drawn vessel that navigated small bodies of water and, when fitted with runners, served as a sleigh during the harsh winters. The original vessel, restored in 1949, and his snowshoes are displayed inside the Basilica.

The First Bishop

In 1829, Charlottetown was raised to an Episcopal See, the second English speaking diocese in Canada and the first in the Maritime  Provinces.  Right Reverend Angus Bernard MacEachern became the first Bishop of the Diocese of Charlottetown.

St. Dunstan’s Chapel

There is only one cathedral, the official church of the bishop, in a diocese. It houses the cathedra or Episcopal chair, the symbol of the bishop’s authority as chief shepherd of the diocese. The primitive wooden church built on this site in 1816 and dedicated to St. Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury became the cathedral for the Diocese of Charlottetown. It was replaced by a new larger wooden cathedral in 1843.

Stone Cathedral

The cornerstone for the third of four cathedrals, the first built of stone, was laid in 1896. The hard Wallace stone foundation and lintels and softer Miramichi stone walls complemented the 25-year old rectory next door.

Built in the form of a Latin cross with 200-ft twin spires and the finest pipe organ in the province, the new cathedral was a tribute to the growing Diocese of Charlottetown. Alas, on March 7, 1913, just six years after the Cathedral’s dedication, it was destroyed by fire.

Scottish architect J. M. Hunter and contractors James Metcalfe and Company re-constructed the walls of the burned cathedral. Inspired by St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, they procured the finest materials and craftsmanship to fashion an elegant English Gothic interior that far surpassed the original cathedral in magnificence. Bells similar in number and tone to those of St. Patrick’s Cathedral were installed in 1928 but later removed due to structural concerns with the bell tower.

When this fourth cathedral was completed in 1919,  it was the largest and most fire-resistant cathedral in the Maritimes. One decade later, for the 100th anniversary of the Diocese of Charlottetown, the pope honoured the enormous financial sacrifices Islanders made to resurrect this house  of  God  from   its   ashes   by   granting St. Dunstan’s the title of Basilica. Only 20 in Canada bear this honorary title.

St. Dunstan’s Basilica

In  1990,  the  federal   government   designated St. Dunstan’s Basilica a National Historic Site of Canada citing it as one of the most elaborate churches in the Maritimes and a fine example of High Victorian Gothic Revival architecture.

Situated on historic Great George Street near Province House with spires reaching the highest points on the city skyline, it is the most visible landmark of the city.

The parishioners of St. Dunstan’s and residents of the community are proud of the historical and spiritual significance of this Basilica and contribute generously to preserve it.

Following the devastating fire in 1913, Roman Catholics throughout the province and other members of the community donated generously to support the reconstruction. It is as a result of similar generosity today, that parishioners are able to maintain its original grandeur.

If you would like to contribute to the continued restoration of our beautiful Basilica, please visit the parish office in the stone building next door: Mon-Fri, 9:00 am-12:00 noon and 1:00 pm-4:00 pm or contribute online at www.stdunstanspei.com.  We appreciate any financial support and will issue an official tax receipt for all donations received.

The Gothic Art and Architecture

During your tour you may notice:

The French  Gothic exterior design lifts our  gaze heavenward to the 10-ft tall spiral crosses at the top of the spires.

Four carvings at the outside doors depict gospel writers; Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Each is identified with Gothic script and their creature as described in the Book of Revelations.

The focal point of the interior, the 37-ft-high altar, and 44-ft-long altar screen, houses 23 statues of saints and angels. The German-crafted Rose window, though seemingly petite, spans 14 feet.

Nearly 300 angel representations are presented in stained glass; below Stations of the Cross; on light fixtures; and entwined in gilded bands of foliage adorning the pillars.

Large ceiling bosses depict the message of the church (boat) spreading faith (cross), hope (chalice), and charity (heart) in PEI (provincial emblem) under the patronage of St. Dunstan. Smaller bosses represent five victorious powers of WWI: Shamrock of Ireland; Rose of England; Thistle of Scotland; Fleur-de-lis of France; and Cross of Italy.

(From St Dunstan’s website)

2) Basilica of Our Lady Immaculate – Guelph, Ontario

When John Galt founded Guelph, Ontario on April 23, 1827, he allocated the highest point in the centre of the newly founded town to Roman Catholics as a compliment to his friend, Bishop Alexander Macdonell, who had given him advice in the formation of the Canada Company. A road was also later cleared leading up to the hill and named after the Bishop, called Macdonell Street.

According to the Guelph Public Library archives, Galt wrote the following statement in the deed transferring the land on which the Church of Our Lady would one day stand: “On this hill would one day rise a church to rival St. Peter’s in Rome.”

The Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady Immaculate is the third church to stand on this site, high above the streetscape, overlooking the city of Guelph. The first church, a framed wooden church named St. Patrick’s, had been built on the hill by 1835 and was the first structure in Guelph that was painted on both its interior and exterior. It burned to the ground on October 10, 1844.

Construction on St. Bartholomew’s Church began shortly after St. Patrick’s was destroyed. The new building was completed in 1846. The following inscription appeared on the cornerstone of St. Bartholomew’s Church: “To God, the best and greatest. The faithful of Guelph, of the diocese of Toronto have built this new Church, in honour of the blessed Apostle Bartholomew, the first church having been consumed in flames.”

Construction of the new church, based on the Cologne Cathedral, began in 1877 under Irish-Canadian architect Joseph Connolly who had designed many churches in Ireland, England and Ontario, notably St. Peter’s Cathedral in London, Ontario.
Built of local limestone in Gothic Revival style, the Church of Our Lady is considered to be Connolly’s masterpiece. Matthew Bell, a well-known Guelph artisan, was responsible for some of the carvings on the exterior as well as on the interior pillars of the church. He died in 1883 as a result of injuries sustained in a fall while working on the building. In 1888, almost twelve years after construction commenced, the church was dedicated to Our Lady Immaculate. The twin towers, which rise to a height of over 200 feet (61 m), were not completed until November 13, 1926. The completed church stands at the head of MacDonell Street as an imposing view terminus, similarly to another major project by Connolly, St. Mary’s Church in Toronto.
(Source from Wikipedia)

3) St. Mary’s Basilica – Halifax, Nova Scotia

It is the cathedral church of the Archdiocese of Halifax and is the largest Catholic church in the Archdiocese. Consecrated on October 19, 1899, it was made a basilica in 1950 by Pope Pius XII. The St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica boasts the tallest granite spire in North America.

The church has been significantly expanded and altered over time. Originally constructed of wood, it was replaced by a stone structure beginning in 1820 inspired (as were many churches of the day) by Saint Martin in the Fields in London. It was expanded to its present size beginning in 1869, according to designs of Patrick Keely who introduced the Gothic Revival facade and spire. Besides the Gothic features, the spire also includes Norman and Germanic design elements.

The facade and spire are notable for being built entirely of granite. All of the stone was locally obtained, except for the three portals which have a jamb shaft of pink Aberdeen granite. The spire has a height of 189 feet (58 m).

The basilica was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1997.

(Source- Wikiepedia)

4) Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral – Montreal, Quebec

Is a minor basilica in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and the seat of the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Montreal.

The construction of the cathedral was ordered by Mgr. Ignace Bourget, second bishop of Montreal, to replace the former Saint-Jacques Cathedral which had burned in 1852. His choice to create a scale model of Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome was in response to a rivalry with the Sulpician order who had been the feudal seigneurs of Montreal, and with the Anglican Church, both of which favoured the Neo-Gothic style instead. The site also sparked controversy due to its location in the western part of downtown, in a then predominantly English neighbourhood far from the homes of the French-Canadian church-goers.

The first architect, Victor Bourgeau, refused the project after studying St. Peter’s, claiming that it could not be reproduced on a smaller scale. At the time, the Holy See and the Papal States were threatened by the nationalist troops of Victor Emmanuel II, king of Piedmont, who was attempting to assert control over all Italy. The undeterred bishop Bourget replied to these events by sending a total of 507 Canadian Zouaves to defend the Papal territories in Italy, whose names are engraved in gold letters on the marble slabs in the cathedral. Their motto is: “Love God and go your way.” A painting depicting Colonel Athanase de Charette, commander of the Papal Zouaves, was made in 1885 by Lionel Royer. Fr. Joseph Michaud, the chaplain of the Papal Zouave volunteers of Montreal, was sent to Rome to secretly produce a scale model to work from.

Work began in 1875 and the new church was consecrated in 1894 as Saint James Cathedral, after Saint James the Great, the patron of the parish the church served. At the time it was the largest church in Quebec. It was made a minor basilica in 1919 by Pope Benedict XV. It was rededicated in 1955 to Mary, Queen of the World, by Pope Pius XII at the request of cardinal Paul-Émile Léger. (The pope had proclaimed this title for Mary in his 1954 encyclical Ad caeli reginam.)

Between 1955 and 1960, several restoration works have been executed.

On March 28, 2000, the cathedral was designated a National Historic Site of Canada

(Source – Wikipedia)

5) Notre-Dame Basilica – Montreal, Quebec

Built in the Gothic Revival style, the church is highly decorated. The vaults are coloured deep blue and decorated with golden stars, and the rest of the sanctuary is decorated in blues, azures, reds, purples, silver, and gold. It is filled with hundreds of intricate wooden carvings and several religious statues. Unusual for a church, the stained glass windows along the walls of the sanctuary do not depict biblical scenes, but rather scenes from the religious history of Montreal. It also has a Casavant Frères pipe organ, dated 1891, which comprises four keyboards, 92 stops using electropneumatic action and an adjustable combination system, 7000 individual pipes and a pedal board.

In 1657, the Roman Catholic Sulpician syndicate arrived in Ville-Marie, now known as Montreal; six years later the seigneury of the island was vested in them. They ruled until 1840. The parish they founded was dedicated to the Holy Name of Mary, and the parish church of Notre-Dame was built on the site in 1672.

François Baillairgé, an architect, designed the interior decoration and choir 1785-95; facade & vault decoration, 1818.

The church served as the first cathedral of the Diocese of Montreal from 1821 to 1822.

By 1824 the congregation had completely outgrown the church, and James O’Donnell, an Irish-American Anglican from New York City, was commissioned to design the new building. O’Donnell was a proponent of the Gothic Revival architectural movement, and designed the church as such. He is the only person buried in the church’s crypt. O’Donnell converted to Roman Catholicism on his deathbed perhaps due to the realization that he might not be allowed to be buried in his church.

The main construction work took place between 1824 and 1829. The cornerstone was laid at Place d’Armes on September 1, 1824. The sanctuary was finished in 1830, and the first tower in 1841, the second in 1843. On its completion, the church was the largest in North America. It remained the largest in North America for over fifty years. A new pipe organ was built in 1858 by Samuel Russell Warren.

The interior took much longer, and Victor Bourgeau, who also worked on Montreal’s Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral, worked on it from 1872 to 1879. Stonemason John Redpath was a major participant in the construction of the Basilica.

Because of the splendour and grand scale of the church, a more intimate chapel, Chapelle du Sacré-Cœur (Chapel of the Sacred Heart), was built behind it, along with some offices and a sacristy. It was completed in 1888. In 1886 Casavant Frères began building a new 32-foot pipe organ at the church, completing it in 1891. It was notably the first organ with adjustable-combination pedals to be operated by electricity.

(Source – Wikipedia)

6) St. Patrick’s Basilica – Montreal, Quebec

The church is known for its historic links to the Irish Canadian community. St. Patrick’s celebrated its 150th anniversary in 1997. English-speaking Catholics first assembled in Montreal at the Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours church in Old Montreal; however, their numbers were swelled by the massive arrival of Irish immigrants around 1817. Initially they were transferred to the Church of the Recollets (the French Franciscans) in 1825, but by 1841 they numbered 6,500, and could no longer be accommodated.

The site of Saint Patrick’s Church was purchased, and construction began in September 1843. What was then the outskirts of the town, on a sloped site overlooking parishioners’ homes in Point St. Charles, Goose Village and Griffintown, Saint Patrick’s seven cornerstones were laid, making it the oldest English-speaking Roman Catholic Church in Montreal. The first mass was celebrated in the church on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 1847, and in 1850 Samuel Russell Warren built the church’s first organ. Adélard Joseph Boucher was the organist from 1853–58, Joseph-A. Fowler followed (1868–1908) and was briefly preceded by Benoît Poirier.

(Source – Wikipedia)

7) Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Québec

“Our Lady of Quebec City”, located at 16, rue de Buade, Quebec City, Quebec, is the primatial church of Canada and the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Quebec, the oldest in the Americas north of the Spanish colonies in Florida and New Mexico.  It is also the parish church of the oldest North American parish north of Mexico and was the first north of Mexico to be elevated to the rank of minor basilica, by Pope Pius IX in 1874.

Located on this site since 1647, the cathedral has twice been destroyed by fire throughout the centuries.

A previous iteration of the church was destroyed during the Siege of Quebec in 1759. It was rebuilt from plans by Gaspard-Joseph Chaussegros de Léry draughted in 1743. The belltower, however, was designed by Jean Baillairgé, who also oversaw construction. The interior was designed by Jean Baillairgé and his son François from 1786–1822. In 1843, François’ son, Thomas, suggested a reconstruction of the façade to resemble the church of Sainte-Geneviève in Paris, resulting in the finest Neo-classic façade in Québec. The cathedral was richly decorated with impressive works of art: baldaquin, canopy, episcopal throne dais, stained glass windows, paintings, and chancel lamp (a gift of Louis XIV).

In 1922 the church was again gutted by fire, this time by the Canadian fraction of the Ku Klux Klan, and restored by architects Maxime Roisin and Raoul Chenevert. Raoul Chenevert added a presbytery beside the Cathedral in 1931-32

In 2014 the cathedral celebrated its 350th anniversary. As part of the celebrations, a holy door was constructed—the second outside Europe and only the eighth in the world. The holy door was opened on December 8, 2013 and remained open until December 28, 2014. It again opened from December 8th, 2015 to November 20th, 2016 for the Year of Mercy after which it was sealed until 2025

(Source – Wikipedia)

8) Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré – Quebec, Canada

A basilica set along the Saint Lawrence River in Quebec, Canada, 30 kilometres (19 mi) east of Quebec City, and one of the five national shrines of Canada. It has been credited by the Catholic Church with many miracles of curing the sick and disabled. It is an important Catholic sanctuary, which receives about a half-million pilgrims each year. Pillars in the front entrance are covered in crutches from people who are said by the parishioners to have been miraculously cured and saved.

The basilica in Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré was initially a shrine to honour Saint Anne. On March 8, 1658, settler Etienne de Lessard donated two frontal acres from the west end of his property to the Catholic Church, so that a chapel could be built. This chapel eventually became the site of the modern-day basilica. The chapel was built to provide a place of worship for the new settlers in the area and to house a miraculous statue of St. Anne. The first reported miracle at the site happened during the shrine’s construction. A man named Louis Guimond was hired to help build the shrine even though he suffered from rheumatism. After placing three stones upon the shrine’s foundation, Guimond was cured of all his ailments. This was followed by other testimonies of healed people, and the shrine soon grew in popularity. Many pilgrims came to the shrine hoping to receive a miracle while others, like Anne of Austria, wife of Louis XIII and Queen of France, supported the shrine from a distance.

Because of the popularity of the shrine, the building was enlarged several times to accommodate all the pilgrims. In the late nineteenth century, a basilica was constructed around the shrine. In 1876, the first basilica opened for worship. This was destroyed in a fire on March 29, 1922. The present-day basilica was built in 1926 on the site of the prior church.

Architects Maxime Roisin, Louis N. Audet and Joseph-Égilde-Césaire Daoust collaborated on the project from 1923-1931. After the end of the Great Depression, work on the interior resumed in 1937, and was finally completed in 1946.

Pilgrims are attracted from across Canada and the United States. Miracles are still believed to occur at the basilica. Two pillars near the entrance are filled with racks of crutches, canes, braces, and other signs of disabilities. Each item has been left by a pilgrim who reports being healed at the basilica.

(Source – Wikipedia)

9) Basilica of St. John the Baptist –  St. John’s, Newfoundland

The Basilica-Cathedral was the largest building project to its date in Newfoundland history. Construction lasted from the excavation of the ground in May 1839, through the laying of the cornerstone in May 1841, until the completion and consecration on September 9, 1855. At this time, it was the largest church building in North America and remains the second largest in Canada behind Saint Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal.

Built between 1839–1855, the basilica is located on the highest ridge overlooking the city of St. John’s. The church is not oriented on the liturgically correct east-west axis, but faces toward the narrows that form the entrance to St. John’s harbour.

The Basilica-Cathedral of St. John the Baptist is built in the form of a Latin cross and in the Lombard Romanesque style of a Roman basilica. It was designed for Bishop Michael Anthony Fleming by the German architect Ole Joergen Schmidt, though Fleming also seems to have had plans prepared by the distinguished Irish architect John Philpot Jones of Clonmel, County Tipperary, Ireland, and also consulted with James Murphy, a native of Dublin, Ireland on the final plans for the cathedral. Construction was initially supervised by the Waterford contractor Michael McGrath, but later superintended by stonemason and sculptor James Purcell of Cork, Ireland, who also designed and built a small wooden church, Christchurch, for the community of Quidi Vidi near St. John’s.

Construction took place under the watchful eye of the Irish-born Bishop Michael Anthony Fleming, the Vicar-Apostolic and first Bishop of Newfoundland and later under the eye of his successor, Bishop John Mullock. The Basilica-Cathedral of St. John the Baptist is unusual among North America’s 19th century public buildings in that it was constructed using limestone and granite imported from Galway and Dublin, Ireland, as well as 400,000 bricks from Hamburg, as well as local sandstone quarried from St. John’s and Kelly’s Island in Conception Bay, giving the Cathedral its characteristic grey colour. During its centenary celebration in 1955, Pope Pius XII raised the cathedral to the rank of minor Basilica.

The St. John’s Basilica-Cathedral was contemporary with and part of the great boom in church construction which surrounded the era of Daniel O’Connell and Catholic emancipation in Ireland and Newfoundland. For its day, the St. John’s Basilica was the largest Irish cathedral anywhere outside Ireland. No other Irish building in North America can boast of such intimate influences from or upon Ireland, and no other building had such an international reputation in its day.

The Basilica was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1983, to recognize its architectural uniqueness as one of the earliest North American examples of the Romanesque revival style, and its central role as the spiritual and cultural home of Newfoundland Roman Catholics

(Source- Wikipedia)

10) Notre-Dame-du-Cap Basilica – Trois-Rivières, Quebec

It is the Canada’s national shrine to the Blessed Virgin Mary and attracts thousands of pilgrims each year.

The first church in the district of Cap-de-la-Madeleine was a small wooden structure built in 1659. In 1694, the first resident pastor, Father Paul Vachon, established the Confraternity of the Most Holy Rosary at Cap de la Madeleine. The wooden building was replaced by a fieldstone church in 1720. The hand hewn beams from the wooden church were used in the construction of the new stone church. Canon Vachon died in 1729 and is buried in the church.

For a long time the parish was without a resident pastor and fell into neglect. In 1867, Father Luc Desilets, pastor at Cap-de-la-Madeleine, re-introduced the praying of the rosary and promoted it among his parishioners. A more regular pastoral presence resulted in increased attendance, and a larger church was needed.

Initially, construction of a new church was hampered by the difficulty of transporting material. However, in mid-March 1879, despite it being an unusually mild winter, a small section of the St. Lawrence River froze sufficiently that, by adding additional snow and water, Father Louis-Eugene Duguay, and some parishioners were able to construct a narrow mile-and- a-half long ice bridge. The ice held for a full week and allowed the building material to be hauled across on horse-drawn sledges. The people attributed their success to the intercession of the Blessed Mother. In October 1880 the finished third church was dedicated to Sainte-Marie-Madeleine.

True to a promise made to the Blessed Virgin, instead of demolishing the old stone church, Desilets dedicated it to Our Lady, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary. The first pilgrimage to the Sanctuary was made on May 7, 1883. Desilets died shortly thereafter, and Duguay became pastor. Janssoone took over the responsibility of managing the shrine, and installed a Way of the Cross. Bronze statues depicted the stations. As the parish work and number of pilgrims increased, they asked the bishop to appoint a custodian to take over the shrine. In 1902, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate became guardians of the Shrine. Beginning in 1906, they installed a Way of the Rosary. The path leads to a series of bronze statues, cast in France, each representing one of the fifteen traditional mysteries of the rosary.

In October 1904, Pope Pius X authorized the canonical coronation of Our Lady of the Cape. In 1964, the present basilica was inaugurated, and the sanctuary officially became a minor basilica. The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate continue to operate the shrine.

(Source- Wikipedia)

3 thoughts on “10 Basilicas in Canada

    1. I could’ve put more in but tried to keep it at a small number and keep me from putting a long time in the making of the link.

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