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Gravelbourg Ecclesiastical Buildings National Historic Site of Canada

Gravelbourg, Saskatchewan, S0H, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1995/07/06

View of the Convent of Jesus and Mary, part of the Gravelbourg Ecclesiastical Buildings National Historic Site of Canada, showing its large brick façade and mansard roof with dormers.; Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada
General view
Corner view of the former Bishop's Residence, part of the Gravelbourg Ecclesiastiacal Buildings National Historic Site of Canada, showing its Classical Revival architecture and stylistic sophistication.; Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada
Corner view
Front elevation of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption, part of the Gravelbourg Ecclesiastical Buildings National Historic Site of Canada, showing its twin towers crowned by cupolas.; Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada
Façade

Other Name(s)

Gravelbourg Ecclesiastical Buildings National Historic Site of Canada
Gravelbourg Religious Complex
Complexe religieux de Gravelbourg
La Cathédrale
La Cathédrale
Church of Saint Philomena
Église Sainte-Philomène
Our Lady of the Assumption Roman Catholic Cathedral
Cathédrale catholique romaine Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption
Co-Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption
Co-Cathédrale de Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1917/01/01 to 1918/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2009/02/12

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

Gravelbourg Ecclesiastical Buildings National Historic Site of Canada is located in Gravelbourg, a small town set in the open prairie landscape of southern Saskatchewan. This religious complex comprises a Cathedral, Bishop’s Residence, and Convent. These, the principal elements of the early settlement, were designed and built by Roman Catholic French-Canadians during the early 20th century. Prominent at the south end of Main Street, the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption is visible for miles around. The large four-storey Convent of Jesus and Mary, with its monumental façade, contains a college, two schools and the regional library within its former chapel. The Bishop’s residence is an attractive, large three-storey brick structure. Stylistically, the buildings follow a Classical Revival theme. This group of Ecclesiastical Buildings speaks to the French-Canadian colonization efforts of the Roman Catholic Church in Western Canada. Official recognition refers to each of the three buildings on its individual footprint.

Heritage Value

Gravelbourg Ecclesiastical Buildings was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1995 because:
- they symbolize the French Canadian colonization efforts of the Roman Catholic Church in Western Canada in the late 19th and early 20th centuries;
- they are closely associated with the work of Father Louis-Joseph Pierre Gravel;
- the complex of buildings, the work of Saskatchewan-based Joseph-Ernest Fortin, was seen to be of superior architectural quality both in style and stylistic sophistication, to those erected in the other Franco-Catholic colonies on the Prairies.

Gravelbourg has been an important centre for the Roman Catholic Church and for French-Canadian culture since it was founded in 1907, by Father Louis-Pierre Gravel. The settlement was declared a town in 1917 and a diocese in 1930. The church’s elevation to cathedral status underlined the town’s position as the principal French speaking community in Saskatchewan. Designed by Architect Joseph-Ernest Fortin, the religious complex was the heart of the early community. The Cathedral (1918-1919) is a dignified composition combining design elements from both the Romanesque and Italian Renaissance period and is notable for its twin towers crowned by cupolas. Monseigneur Charles Maillard painted its elaborate interior between 1921-1931. The Convent, an imposing structure, was constructed for the Sisters of Jesus and Mary as a convent and boarding school for girls in 1917. In 1927, two large additional wings extended the structure’s length to 300 feet and its capacity to 400 students. This former convent is now a multi-educational centre containing two schools, a library and a continuing education college. The Bishop’s residence (1918), one of the largest houses in the community, reflects the presence of the church through its proximity to the Cathedral and its Classical Revival Style.

Sources: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, June 1995; Commemorative Integrity Statement.

Character-Defining Elements

The key elements that contribute to the heritage character of this site include:

In all three buildings:
- the physical expressions of the Roman Catholic Church's efforts to direct French Canadian settlement and ensure success by imparting familiar institutions and a sense of permanence;
- their interconnectedness, and for their represention of the cohesive, unified presence of the Roman Catholic Church in Gravelbourg, as seen in their original locations in close proximity to one another, and the consistent use of buff-coloured Claybank brick in exterior construction;
- the sense of authority, sophistication, and stability, as seen in their elegant and imposing scale, massing, symmetry and style, and the use of high-quality material such as Claybank brick, Tyndall stone, fir and oak;
- the interior separations between public and private spaces.

The Co-Cathedral:
- its location at the head of main street, as a central focal point for the whole settlement;
- its unobstructed viewline to the train station, providing one of the very first and most dominant views that settlers had of Gravelbourg;
- its original form, layout, appearance, and materials, both interior and exterior;
- its architectural style, a combination of Romanesque and Italian Renaissance; and
- its ornate interior iconographic program illustrating the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church through its religious decorations, motifs, and the extensive use of French and Latin languages.

The former Bishop`s Residence:
- its location beside the Co-Cathedral, indicating its original purpose and use throughout the decades, and the esteemed position of the clergy in the community;
- the high degree of integrity of the exterior of the original portion of the residence;
- the integrity of the interior’s original layout of the ground floor front rooms; and
- its Classical Revival architecture and stylistic sophistication, as seen in its symmetry, elegance, high quality materials, and mathematical proportions.

The former convent school:
- its original form, layout, appearance, and materials, both interior and exterior;
- its continued use as a school since its construction;
- physically reflecting its historical functions as both school and convent, through such characteristics as its bell tower; mansard style roof with dormers, the large and impressive chapel, auditorium, fourth floor linen room, massive wood doors separating the second floor parlour, dumb waiter, large refrigerator doors and trunk rooms in the basement, its piano rooms on the fourth floor;
- physically reflecting its close relationship to the church, such as through its religious motifs and large circular stained glass window above the main entrance.

Recognition

Jurisdiction

Federal

Recognition Authority

Government of Canada

Recognition Statute

Historic Sites and Monuments Act

Recognition Type

National Historic Site of Canada

Recognition Date

1995/07/06

Historical Information

Significant Date(s)

1927/01/01 to 1927/01/01
1918/01/01 to 1919/01/01
1930/01/01 to 1930/01/01

Theme - Category and Type

Peopling the Land
Settlement
Building Social and Community Life
Religious Institutions
Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
Architecture and Design
Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
Philosophy and Spirituality

Function - Category and Type

Current

Religion, Ritual and Funeral
Religious Facility or Place of Worship

Historic

Architect / Designer

J.-E. Fortin

Builder

n/a

Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

National Historic Sites Directorate, Documentation Centre, 5th Floor, Room 89, 25 Eddy Street, Gatineau, Québec

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier

850

Status

Published

Related Places

n/a

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