Description of Historic Place
Christ Church Cathedral is an imposing stone Gothic Revival Anglican Cathedral located on the southeast corner of Quadra Street and Rockland Avenue, adjacent to Pioneer Square Cemetery, in Victoria's Fairfield neighbourhood. It is one of four historic buildings on the City block bounded by Quadra Street, Rockland Avenue, Vancouver Street and Burdett Avenue.
Christ Church Cathedral, begun in 1926, is valued for its architecture, its architect, its strategic location, its use of local building materials, its church bells and continuing tradition of bell-ringing, and its peaceful grounds.
Christ Church Cathedral is an outstanding example of Gothic Revival ecclesiastical architecture. The style, which originated in mid-eighteenth century England, grew in popularity in the nineteenth century, reviving medieval forms in reaction to the classical styles that were prevalent at that time. The movement had significant influence throughout the western world.
This cathedral is valued for its association with the architect John Charles Malcolm Keith, who won an architectural competition to build the Cathedral in 1891. The structure blended architectural ideas drawn from Durham Cathedral in England and Grace Episcopal Cathedral in San Francisco. Funds for construction were woefully inadequate, so it was not until August 1926 that the Bishop of London laid the foundation stone. Keith moved his architectural practice from England to supervise construction, designing several other local landmarks while waiting for this project to begin. Only the nave was initially completed, and was consecrated in 1929. Further building was delayed by the Great Depression, then World War II. The western towers were completed in the 1950s, and reconstruction of the east end, completed and consecrated in 1991, renders the Cathedral one of Canada's largest churches.
The cathedral is also noted for its location atop Church Hill, directly across the street from the location of two previous cathedrals of the same name. This site was selected for symbolic reasons, to ensure that the building would be visible from some distance in order to serve as a beacon for the loyal congregation of Anglicans in this remote outpost of the British Empire.
There is heritage value in the use of many local building materials in the construction. The exterior was faced with native sandstone from Newcastle Island, the foundations and steps were made of granite from Nelson Island, slates for the roof came from Jervis Inlet, and native woods were used for interior finishing. Tracery windows are formed from camus (cast) stone.
There is also heritage value in the bells that hang in the northern tower. Installed in 1936, with 2 additional bells added in 1983, the bells are modelled on those at Westminster Abbey. The bell ringers are one of only a few groups left in Canada that regularly ring the changes.
The cathedral grounds also have social value as an oasis of calm close to Victoria's urban core. The building is surrounded by lawns, a brick meditation circle, mature trees, annual plantings and perennials. These grounds extend the green space found in Pioneer Square Cemetery to the north.
Source: City of Victoria Planning Department
The character-defining elements of Christ Church Cathedral include:
- characteristics of the Gothic Revival style including monumental stone construction, pointed-arch window frames, twin towers on the west end, main entrance with rose window, stone steps, flying buttresses, outdoor pulpit on south side, clerestory windows
- the Chapel of the New Jerusalem, added in 1991
- stained and leaded glass, both historic and modern
- bells in north tower
- religious text along eave line
- main Gothic entrance with flanking pairs of smaller Gothic entrance doors
- siting atop a hill providing views to the south
- view corridor from Courtney Street
- relationship with Memorial Hall, Yarrow Chapel, and the Deanery, as part of the Cathedral complex
- proximity to Pioneer Square Cemetery