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Moravian Church Registered Heritage Structure

Nain, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

Formally Recognized: 2009/10/24

View of mainfacade of Moravian Church, Nain, Labrador. Photo taken June 2009.; HFNL 2009
Moravian Church, Nain, Labrador
View of rear facade of Moravian Church, Nain, Labrador. Photo taken June 2009.; HFNL 2009
Moravian Church, Nain, Labrador
View of interior of Moravian Church, Nain, Labrador. Photo taken June 2009.; HFNL 2009
Moravian Church, Nain, Labrador

Other Name(s)


Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2010/02/11

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The Moravian Church in Nain is an early twentieth-century wooden church building with a low-pitch gable roof and a square bell tower with a helm roof. It is located near the shore and community dock and is a dominant structure on the landscape. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.

Heritage Value

The Moravian Church has been designated for its aesthetic and historic values.

The Moravian Church is aesthetically valuable for its typical Moravian church architecture. Made of wood the church is a one-storey low pitched roof structure with a square steeple topped by a helm roof (a roof with four sloping sides, rising from four gables, joining at the apex like a pyramid). A row of rectangular, wooden, six-pane windows extends down both sides of the church and its only ornamentation is on the front facade, done by the use of differing window sizes, patterns and shapes. The interior of the church is also aesthetically valuable for its open beam construction, use of wood panelling and relatively simple style and lack of ornamentation. The use of wood buildings in the area signified a sense of permanence where the land once was used for migratory Inuit. The Moravians were known to spend extended periods of their ministry at their chosen missions; sometimes up to 30-40 years. They spent a great deal of time and effort in building whole complexes such as the one in Nain, which contains wood buildings like the church, stores, outbuildings, communal residences, etc.

The Moravian Church is historically valuable for its associations with the Moravian Mission, established in Czechoslovakia in the middle of the fifth century. Missionary work started about 1730 worldwide and became one of the most successful foreign missions in the world. In 1771 a ship sailed from London to Labrador with 14 brethren and sisters (three married couples and eight single men). They founded Nain and in 1776 established a mission at Okak (1776 to 1919). In both cases, the missionaries gave gifts to the Inuit to ratify their occupation of the land. A mission at Hebron was set up (1830 to 1959), with Zoar (1864 or 1866 to 1889), Ramah (1871 to 1908), Makkovik (1896) and Killinek (1905 to 1925). When fire consumed the original 1771 church in Nain in 1923, it was rebuilt using timber and materials from the depopulated settlements of Okak and Ramah.

The Moravian Church is historically valuable for its associations with a number of significant persons who were connected to the mission itself, such as Jens Haven, founder of the 1771 mission station; P. Hettasch, S. Hettasch, and W. F. Peacock who were well-known missionaries; well-known elders such as Jerry SIllett and Martin Martin; and Captain Bob Bartlett and Sir Wilfred Grenfell, who were noted on a visitor guest book.

The Moravian Church is historically valuable for its association with the Moravian mission, having been credited with documenting much of Northern Labrador’s history and its significant efforts in the preservation of the Inuttitut language.

Source: Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador, Meeting held October 24, Minutes #64.

Character-Defining Elements

All those original architectural elements of the exterior and interior, including:
-wooden construction;
-low-pitch gable roof;
-wooden, six-pane windows, their sizes, locations, styles;
-wooden, six-pane peaked windows near the steeple;
-long, narrow, three-pane windows located within the steeple;
-open, arched windows and diamond-shaped windows in the steeple;
-stone foundation;
-lack of ornamentation and prevalence of simple, clean lines both on the exterior of the structure and on the interior, including the open beam construction and wood panelling; and
-location on the landscape as a cultural and physical landmark.



Newfoundland and Labrador

Recognition Authority

Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador

Recognition Statute

Historic Resources Act

Recognition Type

Registered Heritage Structure

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)


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




Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador
1 Springdale Street
St. John's, NL
A1C 5V5

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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