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Holy Trinity Convent and Chapel Registered Heritage Structure

Witless Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador, A0A, Canada

Formally Recognized: 2005/10/07

Exterior photo of the Convent and Chapel, Witless Bay, NL, taken August 1, 2005.; HFNL/Dale Jarvis 2005
Convent and Chapel, Witless Bay, NL
Interior view of ribbed vault ceiling and stained glass window, Chapel, Holy Trinity Convent, Witless Bay, NL.; HFNL 2005
Interior Holy Trinity Convent Chapel, Witless Bay
Exterior view of the Holy Trinity Convent and Chapel, Witless Bay, circa 1890.; HFNL 2005
Holy Trinity Convent, circa 1890

Other Name(s)


Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2005/10/11

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The Holy Trinity Convent is a large, wooden building that comprises a Mansard roofed, three story convent with an attached gable roofed chapel and two attached, one story buildings. This building is situated prominently in the town of Witless Bay and it overlooks the community and harbour. The designation encompasses the entire property.

Heritage Value

The Holy Trinity Convent and Chapel has been designated a Registered Heritage Structure because it has aesthetic, historic and environmental values. The Holy Trinity Convent and Chapel is aesthetically valuable because it is a unique building in the community of Witless Bay, with a blend of architectural styles. The convent, located at the northern end of the complex, is constructed in the Second Empire style. Originally featuring a steeply pitched gable roof, this wooden building was given a concave Mansard roof with bonneted dormers around 1890. The windows follow a regular fenestration pattern, and the Classical doorway has a pediment and double doors. The large, multi-paned transom over the front door is highlighted by the wide sidelights and front-facing stairs. A sunburst decoration fills the pediment, which is supported by eaves brackets and a simple cross graces the peak of the pediment. The rear of the convent building features a narrow square belfry and an arched stained glass window with tracery. The original bell remains in the tower.

The attached chapel is in the Gothic Revival style with a steeply pitched gable roof. Two pointed copper spires stand high above the chapel atop narrow square towers, accentuating the arched stained glass window. A second arched stained glass window is similarly positioned at the rear of the chapel and two arched windows are located at the southern end. Most windows in the chapel have dripmoulds and are original to the building.

A small shed-roofed building attached to the back of the building was a service area and reflects its utilitarian nature through simplicity in design. The covered porch located at the south end of the building is decorated in a simple manner. It has diagonal clapboard construction and a zig-zag overhang decoration.

The Holy Trinity Convent and Chapel is historically valuable because of its long history in the community of Witless Bay. In 1860, when the convent was established, an attached building was used as a school for girls and was run under the authority of Mother M. Bernard O’Donnell and staffed by the Presentation Sisters. Initially school accommodations were provided for one hundred children and within the first year ninety two were enrolled. This school helped form and maintain the Roman Catholic education system in the community, under the guidance of the sisters. The school building has since been demolished, but the convent and chapel associated with it remain.

The Holy Trinity Convent and Chapel holds environmental values because it stands in its original setting, within a large parcel of open land and fronted by mature trees and a wooden picket fence. The convent and chapel are located next to the Holy Trinity Church and school and they overlook the community and harbour, providing a prominent visual impact on the town.

Source: Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador property file number 2474, Witless Bay - Holy Trinity Convent and Chapel.

Character-Defining Elements

All those elements that embody the 19th century Second Empire style of the convent building, including:
-Mansard roof;
-bonneted dormers;
-square belfry with original bell and stained glass window;
-the regular fenestration of windows;
-Classical doorway with side lights and transom;
-pediment above main door with wooden starburst motif;
-narrow wooden clapboard;
-size and shape of window and door openings;
-general massing and three storey height; and
-location, orientation and dimensions.

All those exterior elements that embody the 19th century Gothic Revival style of the chapel building, including:
-copper spires;
-arched windows with dripmoulds;
-original stained glass windows;
-steeply pitched roof;
-original fenestration of the arched windows;
-size and shape of window and door openings;
-general massing as a one-storey chapel; and
-location, orientation and dimensions.

All interior features of the chapel which reflect the design and function as a chapel, including:
-ribbed vault ceiling with bosses at the rib intersections;
-plasterwork, including cherubim;
-all stained glass windows;
-fan window with tracery;
-all trims, mouldings and interior dripmoulds;
-all window and door sizes, shapes and openings; and
-general layout of the chapel and openness of the room.

All other exterior features of the building complex that reflect the original, vernacular style, including:
-general design and construction of the side porch, including the low pitch roof, diagonal clapboard and zig zag overhang decoration;
-general design and construction of the rear service extension, including the shed roof and lack of ornamentation; and
-window and door sizes, shapes and openings.

All exterior environmental elements of the surrounding land and property which are reflective of the building's historic setting and placement, including:
-open, green space at the rear of the building;
-green gardens at the front of the property with mature trees; and
-wooden picket fence which delineates the front gardens from the road and which is similar in style, size and materials as the historic fence, as shown in historic photos.



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


Commerce / Commercial Services
Hotel, Motel or Inn


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, P.O. Box 5171, St. John's, NL, A1C 5V5

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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