Links and documents
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
Saint Paul’s Roman Catholic Church National Historic Site of Canada, with its twin spires and Gothic Revival style, is a local landmark located on the fifteen hectare Mission First Nations Reserve on the North Shore of Burrard Inlet, across from the Vancouver Harbour. It is situated within the Mission Reserve, surrounded by housing and public buildings and adjacent to a ‘Celebration of Creation Garden,’ created for the Squamish Nation Elders in 1998. Official recognition refers to the church on its footprint.
Saint Paul’s Roman Catholic Church was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1980 because:
- this oldest surviving mission church in the Vancouver area has long been a focal point of the Mission Reserve;
- it is an example of the Gothic Revival Style in Canada.
Saint Paul’s is associated with the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, a Roman Catholic missionary order that played an important role in the introduction of Catholicism to western Canada and the lower mainland of British Columbia. Established in 1864, this mission reserve was the first permanent settlement in the area now known as North Vancouver. The original chapel dating from the mid-1860s was replaced in 1884 by a larger frame church with a projecting front steeple. The current St. Paul’s church, which incorporates the walls of the 1884 church, was extensively remodeled and expanded with the addition of twin spires in 1909.
Saint Paul’s is a fine example of Gothic Revival ecclesiastical architecture in Canada. The walls of the 1884 building were retained but lofty 26-metre-high corner towers replaced the original central tower. The addition of transcepts and a vestry, along with circular-shaped chapels, created a sophisticated cruciform shape that was without precedent among Oblate mission churches in British Columbia. Apart from two chancel columns retained from the 1884 structure, decoration was confined to fret-sawn trim, largely removed in later renovations. The church was reopened in 1910 and named St. Paul’s in memory of Father Durieu, the first Oblate missionary in the area. St. Paul’s was the last mission church of this scale and complexity to be built on a First Nation mission in British Columbia, and is the last surviving example.
Sources: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, June 1981, November 1983, February 1990.
Key elements that contribute to the heritage character of this site include:
- its setting on the Mission Reserve surrounded by community housing and public buildings;
- views across Burrard Inlet to Vancouver;
- its cruciform plan and symmetrical massing;
- the twin 26-metre-high ornate spires that project from the front elevation;
- the wood shingled roof with wooden detailing at the soffit level;
- the wooden crosses on top of both spires and over each gable end;
- the wood construction and clapboard cladding;
- the symmetrical fenestration with Gothic arched windows in single, double and triple assembly, some with stained glass, as well as rosette stained glass windows;
- the wide wooden exterior staircase leading to the entry;
- the wooden, twin pilaster surrounds for the principle doors located at the base of the spires;
- the semi-circular chapels;
- the wall and two chancel columns retained from the 1884 structure;
- surviving original millwork in the interior, including the pews.
Government of Canada
Historic Sites and Monuments Act
National Historic Site of Canada
1909/01/01 to 1910/01/01
Theme - Category and Type
- Building Social and Community Life
- Religious Institutions
- Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
- Architecture and Design
Function - Category and Type
- Religion, Ritual and Funeral
- Religious Facility or Place of Worship
- Religion, Ritual and Funeral
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
National Historic Sites Directorate, Documentation Centre, 5th Floor, Room 89, 25 Eddy Street, Gatineau, Quebec
Cross-Reference to Collection