Description of Historic Place
Sainte Marie Church is an imposing French Romanesque Revival style church located adjacent to the campus of the Université Sainte-Anne, the only French university in Nova Scotia. It is reputed to be the largest wooden building in North American. It is an important cultural landmark for the Acadian community of Church Point, NS and beyond. Both the church and the lands are included in the provincial designation.
Sainte Marie Church is valued for its architecture and as a cultural landmark.
Construction of Sainte Marie Church was completed in 1905, based on the designs of French architect Auguste Regneault and overseen by local master carpenter Léo Melanson. Melanson constructed several other wood frame churches in the area and was awarded a medal in 1944 by Pope Pius XII for his work on Sainte Marie. Its construction owes much to the resident priest of the time, Father Pierre-Marie Dagnaud of the Eudist Order. This church is the third church to be built on the site to serve the local Catholic congregation who were the descendants of the Acadian families who arrived in the area in 1769 from Massachusetts. These families survived the 1755 Deportation and returned to Nova Scotia on foot. Unable to return to their original homes, which had been burned or occupied by English-speaking settlers, this group of displaced Acadians resettled in the Church Point area.
Sainte Marie Church is unique within Nova Scotia and is thought to be the largest wooden building in North America. Regneault’s design incorporated French and Romanesque Revival influences. The former is demonstrated by the overall plan form, the general building massing, the spires and the interior rib valuated ceilings. The round headed windows and limited articulation of the exterior elevations are typical of the Romanesque style. Both the interior and the exterior of the church remain relatively unaltered. The high vaulted ceilings combined with the large nave and transepts give the visitor, upon entering, a sense of grandeur and awe. The sheer size of the church gives it a dominating appearance at the 185 foot spire can be seen from miles around.
The church is both an architectural landmark and represents Acadian culture and history in Nova Scotia.
Source: Provincial Heritage Property File no. 247.
Character-defining elements of Sainte Marie Church include:
- wood cladding;
- location close to the campus of the Université Sainte-Anne;
- wood framing.
Character-defining elements of Sainte Marie Church that relate to its Romanesque Revival style include:
- windows with label mouldings and stained glass;
- long, double belfry openings
- tower with round headed window;
- rectangular windows in the turrets and across the centre of the tower;
- interior arches supported by large round pillars with ornate Corinthian capitals;
- band of ornamental arches under clerestory windows running around the entire perimeter of the church.
Character-defining elements of Sainte Marie Church that relate to its French architectural influence include:
- two-storey, five-sided chancel extension;
- two large turrets flanking central steeple
- four small turrets at base of roof spire
Interior character-defining elements of Sainte Marie Church include:
- high vaulted ceilings;
- large nave and transepts;
- nine flower-edged tableaux on central ceiling vaults;
- crystal chandelier from 1828 church;
- 41 stained glass windows, three bronze bells, main altar and Stations of the Cross, all imported from France.