Lacombe, Albert Chapel
Albert Lacombe Chapel
Vital Grandin Centre
St. Albert Mission
Links and documents
1872/01/01 to 1877/01/01
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The Bishop's Palace is an imposing late nineteenth century, three and one-half storey building situated on a single lot high on the northern bank of the Sturgeon River overlooking the city of St. Albert. It is a symmetrically constructed wood frame building on a tall brick foundation that serves as the first storey. The Bishop's Palace maintains its association with the adjacent Father Lacombe Church, which is not included in this designation.
The heritage value of the Bishop's Palace lies in its association with Bishop Vital Justin Grandin, its connection with the religious and social culture of the St. Albert Mission, and its embodiment of many of the architectural forms and features associated with French-Canadian convents.
St. Albert was founded in 1861 when Fr. Albert Lacombe of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate chose a site just north of the Sturgeon River for his next mission. He attracted settlers, many of them Metis, and the community became one of the earliest and most significant mission sites and agricultural settlements in present-day Alberta. In 1871, the Diocese of St. Albert was created and Vital Justin Grandin was made bishop. From his Episcopal See in St. Albert, Bishop Grandin directed the development of the Roman Catholic Church throughout his expansive diocese and co-ordinated the social work of the Oblates and the Grey Nuns. The palace also served Grandin's successor, Bishop Emile-Joseph Legal, who resided there until 1912, when the Episcopal See was moved to Edmonton.
In 1872, shortly after the creation of the Diocese of St. Albert, construction began on a large convent for the Grey Nuns who had arrived in St. Albert in 1863. The building was intended to be used as a residence for the sisters as well as a hospital, but upon its completion in 1877, the nuns insisted that Bishop Grandin use the building as his episcopal palace. The Bishop's Palace was clearly designed with its original purpose in mind. With its rectangular massing, gable roof, regular fenestration, dormers, short verandah, and balconies, it represents a fine embodiment of the forms and features typical of French-Canadian convents. Whereas French-Canadian convents where usually constructed of stone, the Bishop's Palace was built of wood - an adaptation of the tradition which was necessitated by the availability of materials. The bell spire crowned with a cross, the cruciform shape of the building, and the beautiful, hand-carved altar in the palace chapel all testify to its religious significance. The marriage of the convent architectural style with the building's rich spiritual symbolism expresses eloquently the palace's dual purpose as utilitarian structure and sacred space.
Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 291)
The character-defining elements of the Bishop's Palace include such features as:
- blocky, rectangular form and massing, symmetrical design, and cruciform plan;
- high-pitched gable roof, regularly-spaced corbelled chimneys with decorative recessed brick panel and raised cross, gabled dormers, bell spire mounted by cross;
- tall, exposed brick foundation and wood feather edge siding;
- central projection from front facade incorporating stairs to main entryway;
- fenestration pattern and design, including rectangular, multi-pane double-hung windows and painted Gothic windows in north chapel projection;
- short verandah and balconies;
- wooden cross on stone base in front of palace;
- original floor plan, original stairwell configuration and wood railing;
- original interior materials and finishes, hand-carved mouldings, interior wall and ceiling panelling, pine floors, panelled doors and hardware;
- original wainscoting, furnishings, and hand-carved altar in chapel.
Province of Alberta
Historical Resources Act
Provincial Historic Resource
1877/01/01 to 1912/01/01
Theme - Category and Type
- Peopling the Land
- Building Social and Community Life
- Religious Institutions
- Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
- Architecture and Design
Function - Category and Type
- Single Dwelling
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch, Old St. Stephen's College, 8820 - 112 Street, Edmonton, AB T6G 2P8 (File: Des. 291)
Cross-Reference to Collection