Description of Historic Place
Holy Trinity Church National Historic Site of Canada is situated on a rocky point on the banks of the Churchill River in Stanley Mission, Saskatchewan. The church was built near a Cree settlement between 1854 and 1860, as a part of an Anglican missionary complex. The oldest extant building in Saskatchewan, Holy Trinity Church is a large, white, wood-frame building built in the Gothic Revival style. Towering to a height of 23 metres, its white spire can be seen for a great distance against the boreal forest. The designated place is the building, defined by its footprint, at the time of designation.
Holy Trinity Church was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1970 because:
- it is an example of a Gothic Revival Style mission church;
- it stands as the oldest church west of the Red River.
Reverend James Settee of the Church Missionary Society of the Church of England established the mission at Lac La Ronge for the Cree people in 1845. The mission moved to its present location in 1852, as it was considered more suitable for farming and fishing. Construction began under the new minister, Reverend Robert Hunt, on a complex that eventually included a carpentry shop, warehouse, school, parsonage, barn and ice-house. The site for the church on a rocky point was cleared in 1853, while timber was cut to dry from the surrounding mixed boreal forest.
Reverend Hunt designed the mission church and hired a chief carpenter from Red River, but much of the construction work was done by local people. Locally cut, heavy timber was used in the frame, with mud and rubble infill and split weatherboard sheathing. Stone footings for the foundation and wood shingles were also made of local materials, while tools, nails, hardware, coloured glass and hardwoods were imported from England. The spire and weathervane were secured in late winter of 1860, after six years of labour. Holy Trinity held its first service, in Cree, on June 10, 1860.
Inside is a collection of Gothic architectural motifs such as pointed wall openings between the tall nave and the side aisles, a ceiling with an elaborate beamed vault, the clerestory and first floor windows with squares of coloured glass, a narrowed chancel at one end and the entrance at the other end beneath the tower.
Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, June 1970.
Key elements that contribute to the heritage character of the site include:
-its dramatic siting on an open, wide point on the Churchill River;
-the rationally expressed massing of tower, nave and chancel, each clearly defined both on the interior and the exterior;
- its steeply-pitched gable roof and tall, spired tower;
-its gothic-arched windows, elongated in the tower, twinned windows in the clerestory and large single windows on the sides and front, all set with rectangular patterns of coloured glass;
- its wood construction and finishing on a stone foundation;
- its open interior volume;
- its original furnishings including wooden pews, altar rail and pulpit;
-its vaulted ceiling with dark-stained wooden beams;
-its colour scheme of yellow, blue and red repeated in the glass, the vault and the red ochre of the pews;
- viewscapes of the Churchill River from the church, and views of the church from the surrounding area.