Description of Historic Place
Paroisse Saint-Pierre is located on the harbour edge in the Village of Chéticamp on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. This large, Neo-Classical style sandstone structure, built in 1893, is oriented in the true ecclesiastical east-west alignment. The building and property are included the provincial designation.
Paroisse Saint-Pierre is valued because it is architecturally significant as it was designed by David Oulette. It is culturally significant for its role in both Chéticamp and to the Acadian community. It is contextually significant for being on its original site and as a physical landmark at the west end of the Cabot Trail.
Saint-Pierre was erected under the guidance of Father Pierre Fiset who in the early 1890s had noticed growing economical activity around the harbour. Since its channel had been dug, it had become possible for larger boats to enter. In 1880, it became evident that the church, then situated at Le Butteau, would soon have to be replaced. Not only did it need a new roof but was also fast becoming too small to accommodate the ever-growing population. Father Fiset had the idea to build the new church along the Chéticamp Harbour. Work was completed on Saint-Pierre in 1893.
David Ouellet, a Quebec City architect who worked on over fifty churches in Quebec, undertook the design of Saint-Pierre. The builder was Hubert Morin, of Trois-Pistoles, Quebec, who together with specialist craftsmen from that province, spent considerable time on site in Chéticamp. Labour was also supplied by members of the parish, especially in the quarrying and transporting of the stone, which came from Chéticamp Island, on the opposite side of the harbour. Saint-Pierre serves not only as a parish church, but also as a monument to Father Fiset. Father Fiset lays interred beneath the church.
The building mass of Saint-Pierre forms three distinct elements: the tower in the west front reaching 165 feet in height; the main body of the church, incorporating nave and side aisles, covered with a steeply pitched roof; and the apse and chapel structure at the east end. The tower is the most dramatic of the exterior architectural elements, incorporating the west front's central doorway surmounted by a rose window. The main body of the church is simpler. A second steeple, an echo of the main tower structure, sits on the roof peak at the eastern end, over the chancel area. While the apse is the same height as the main church, the chapel is significantly lower.
The building interior is the most successful aspect of Oullet's design. In plan form, there is a central nave aisle, and single side aisles. By ending the side galleries one bay short of the chancel, the effect of a transept is skilfully introduced into the rectangular plan. Decorative paintings and stained glass have been kept to a minimum providing an especially effective setting for the well-designed altarpiece, built in 1912 and still sited on the east wall. A Casavant organ was acquired in 1905 and is still in excellent working order.
Saint-Pierre continues to hold regular services.
Source: Provincial Heritage Program property files, no. 259, 1747 Summer Street, Halifax, NS.
Exterior character-defining elements relating to the Neo-Classical style of Paroisse Saint-Pierre include:
- sandstone structure;
- building mass forming three distinct elements: the tower in the west front, the main body incorporating the nave and side aisles, and the apse and chapel structures at the east end;
- front central doorway surmounted by a rose window;
- steeple rising from a square base with pediments to an open belfry octagonal in plan, also with pediments, and ending with a relatively thick spire;
- main body has seven slender, round headed windows in each side elevation;
- windows have simple head detail, including a keystone and lug sills;
- second steeple sits on the roof peak at the eastern end, over the chancel area;
- main body covered with a steeply pitched roof.
Interior character-defining elements relating to the Renaissance style of Paroisse Saint-Pierre include:
- central nave aisle, and single side aisles;
- side galleries ending one bay short of the chancel;
- ceiling is a series of ribbed barrel vaults, with the ribbing separated from the nave arcade by a heavy cornice;
- nave piers have capitols derived from the Corinthian order;
- altar piece, built in 1912 is sited on the east wall;
- Casavant organ acquired in 1905.