St. Mary's Basilica National Historic Site of Canada
St. Mary's Basilica
Basilique St. Mary
Links and documents
1820/01/01 to 1829/01/01
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
St. Mary’s Basilica National Historic Site of Canada is a large church prominently situated in downtown Halifax, Nova Scotia. The church’s Gothic Revival design, with impressive triple portal and tall central spire make it one of the city’s outstanding landmarks. The designation refers to the church on its legal property at the time of designation.
St. Mary’s Basilica was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1997 because of:
- its central role in the religious history of Nova Scotia; and,
- its association with individuals and events that played a central role in the emancipation of Roman Catholics in the province and in Canada.
The heritage value of St. Mary’s Basilica resides in its historical association, particularly in its central position in the history of Roman Catholicism in Nova Scotia as reflected in the physical and design qualities of the church itself. One of the first Roman Catholic cathedrals in Canada, it is an imposing example of mature Gothic Revival architecture and its long and early history is reflected in its architectural evolution. Begun in 1820 under Bishop Edmund Burke as the first Roman Catholic cathedral in Nova Scotia, it heralded enormous gains in the legal and social standing of Catholics. Under Archbishop Thomas Connolly, a major expansion and redecoration of the church was undertaken (1860 - 1874) to designs by Irish-American architect Patrick C. Keely. The expansion reflected the growing confidence and importance of the Diocese. St. Mary’s was named a Basilica in 1950.
Sources: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, June 1997; December 2003.
Key elements that reflect the heritage value of this site include:
- its siting on a major thoroughfare in downtown Halifax;
- its imposing, stone construction, which reflects its importance as a cornerstone of the Roman Catholic community in Nova-Scotia;
- its Gothic Revival style architecture which reflects the historical associations of the church, including:
- surviving original elements of the 1820 core, particularly elements reflecting the early Georgian Gothic Revival style such as surviving evidence of its original two-storey rectangular massing;
- the 1860-1874 footprint and massing, extending the original east end by four bays;
- the High Victorian Gothic Revival style facade with its elaborate triple portal and central tower with dressed granite spire;
- the High Victorian Gothic Revival style interior features such as the groin vaulting and the decorative stone carving on the bosses, arches, and capitals;
- the original placement, materials and designs of doors and windows including the stained glass;
- the interior elements, decorations and furnishings.
Government of Canada
Historic Sites and Monuments Act
National Historic Site of Canada
1860/01/01 to 1874/01/01
Theme - Category and Type
- Building Social and Community Life
- Religious Institutions
Function - Category and Type
- Religion, Ritual and Funeral
- Religious Facility or Place of Worship
Architect / Designer
Patrick C. Keely
Location of Supporting Documentation
National Historic Sites Directorate, Documentation Centre, 5th Floor, Room 89, 25 Eddy Street, Gatineau, Quebec.
Cross-Reference to Collection