Description of Historic Place
St. Denis Church is located in a scenic setting in Minudie, Nova Scotia, overlooking surrounding farm lands and the Cumberland Basin. This wooden, combination Greek Revival and Gothic Revival style church was built in 1848. An active cemetery surrounds St. Denis. The building, cemetery and property are included in the provincial designation.
St. Denis Church is valued for its historical association with the Acadians of Minudie and because of its combination of Greek Revival and Gothic Revival styles of architecture.
Acadian settlement in the area of Minudie dates to the eighteenth century. When 8000 acres in this area was granted to J.F.W. DesBarres in 1765, many Acadians took up his offer of tenant farms. Father LeRoux, who travelled from Memramcook, ministered to this early Acadian community. In the nineteenth century, with a large Roman Catholic population, Minudie became the centre of the Parish of St. Denis, which included all of Cumberland County and parts of Colchester County.
By this time, Amos King Seaman had acquired the DesBarres estate, and offered land for the erection of a Roman Catholic Church building. In 1848, carpenter Elear Arsenault and his two sons erected St. Denis. With the Reverend Thomas Lyons as the first resident priest, St. Denis served as the mother church for the Roman Catholic community in Cumberland County. St. Denis remains the oldest Roman Catholic Church building in the county, and one of the oldest in the province.
After the death of King Seaman, Minudie began a long period of economic and population decline. St. Denis eventually closed for regular service in 1968. In 1975, the Restoration Committee of St. Denis was formed to ensure the preservation of the church building. Each year the special Blessing of the Crops service is held in August and the church remains open during the summer for visitors and community events. The cemetery surrounding the church remains active.
St. Denis Church is a wood frame structure, with rectangular plan form and simple gable roof. The main structure displays several Greek Revival elements, such as the pedimented gable end, the detailing of the pilasters at the corner of the building and the large, square-headed windows. Projecting from the centre of the front elevation is a large bell tower, which in contrast illustrates the Gothic Revival style, with features such as the pointed arch opening, with louvres, and the pinnacles and castellation at the top. A more unique element in the bell tower structure is the large cross-shaped window above the entrance.
St. Denis is the only Acadian landmark left in the Minudie area and it is also the largest building in the village and as such, St. Denis reflects the cultural, social, religious and architectural history of Minudie.
Source: Provincial Heritage Program property files, no. 174, 1747 Summer Street, Halifax, NS.
Exterior character-defining elements of St. Denis Church include:
- wood frame structure;
- clad with wood clapboarding;
- rear vestry addition;
- sandstone foundation;
- rectangular plan form;
- gable roof;
- pedimented gable end;
- detailed pilasters at the corners of the building;
- square-headed windows;
- bell tower with pointed arch opening with louvres, and pinnacles and castellation at the top;
- large cross-shaped window above the entrance;
- cemetery surrounding the church, with original grave markers.
Interior character-defining elements of St. Denis Church include:
- barrel vault running from front to rear over the centre aisle, and supported by slender fluted columns;
- rear gallery;
- wall boarding finish on ceiling and walls.