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St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Cemetery Municipal Heritage Site

Bonavista, Newfoundland and Labrador, A0C, Canada

Formally Recognized: 2007/10/15

Photo view of St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Cemetery and Church, Bonavista, 2006/10/11; L Maynard, HFNL, 2007
St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Cemetery and Church
Photo view of St. Joseph’s Roman Cahtolic Cemetery, Church and Parish House, 2007/03/26; L Maynard, HFNL, 2007
St. Joseph’s Cemetery, Church and Parish House
Photo view of St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Cemetery and Church and Parish House, 2007/09/13; Courtesy of Town of Bonavista, 2007
St. Joseph’s Cemetery and Church, Bonavista, 2007

Other Name(s)


Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2007/11/19

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Cemetery is located on the grounds of St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church, a designated Municipal Heritage Building and a Provincial Registered Heritage Structure at Chapel Hill, Bonavista. The grassy, fenced cemetery contains over 100 gravemarkers, a sizable portion of which are white marble types. The municipal heritage designation includes all the fenced area of cemetery.

Heritage Value

St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Cemetery has spiritual, historic and aesthetic values.

St. Joseph’s Cemetery has spiritual and historic value as the oldest known consecrated cemetery associated with the Catholic faith in Bonavista. The cemetery has been in use since at least the 1840s, at which time approximately one-quarter of the community’s residents were Catholic, and it continues to be used as a burial ground in the twentieth-first century.

St. Joseph’s Cemetery has historic value as a physical record of Bonavista’s past; the gravemarkers serve as historic records, containing genealogical and information about noteworthy events and people associated with the parish. A number of nineteenth-century gravemarkers identify the deceased as Irish immigrants from various counties including Cork, Kilkenny and Wexford. One gravemarker commemorates the first parish priest at Bonavista, Reverend Matthew Scanlan from Ireland, whose remains were interred in December of 1871. Another headstone records that William Fleming of Spillars Cove “perished at the ice fields in the Newfoundland disaster, April 2, 1914, age 18.” Several twentieth-century headstones identify the deceased as war veterans.

The gravemarkers also serve as artifacts on the landscape, in materials and forms which were popular during the period in which they were produced. Most of the older ones are white marble in tablet or column forms and a number bear the marks of their carvers – Cook, Muir, McIntyre or Skinner. There are also some wooden gravemarkers, and more recent granite ones.

St. Joseph’s Cemetery has aesthetic value as a typical, white-paling-fenced, churchyard cemetery with grassy topography, gravemarkers, and some grave plot fencing in iron, cement or wood. The charming, wooden, Gothic Revival church on whose grounds it sits was completed in 1842 and is itself a landmark. St. Joseph’s Church and Cemetery together form a picturesque site that evokes the nineteenth century and is special in Bonavista’s cultural landscape. This is further enhanced by the presence of the Carpenter Gothic parish house, built in 1900, immediately next to the site, such that a tidy cluster of historic Roman Catholic parish properties greets the eye atop Chapel Hill.

Source: Town of Bonavista Town Council Meeting Minutes of 2007/10/15

Character-Defining Elements

All those elements relating to the function and historic value of the site, including:

-use as a consecrated burial ground;
-types (column, tablet) and materials (marble, granite, wood) of gravemarkers;

And those further elements which contribute to the site’s aesthetic value, including:

-grave plot boundaries in wood, concrete or iron;
-grassy topography;
-white, wooden paling fencing;
-Chapel Hill location;
-and proximity to the church and parish house.



Newfoundland and Labrador

Recognition Authority

NL Municipality

Recognition Statute

Municipalities Act

Recognition Type

Municipal Heritage Building, Structure or Land

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)

1840/01/01 to 2007/01/01

Theme - Category and Type

Building Social and Community Life
Religious Institutions

Function - Category and Type



Religion, Ritual and Funeral
Mortuary Site, Cemetery or Enclosure

Architect / Designer




Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

Town of Bonavista P.O. Box 279 Bonavista, NL A0C 1B0

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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