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St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church

1 Longworth Street, Souris, Prince Edward Island, C0B, Canada

Formally Recognized: 2010/06/03

St. Mary's RC Church; Province of PEI, F. Pound, 2009
St. Mary's RC Church
Side elevation; Province of PEI, C. Stewart, 2011
Side elevation
St. Mary's RC Church, ca 1920s; PARO/PEI Acc 4048/1
St. Mary's RC Church, ca 1920s

Other Name(s)


Links and documents

Construction Date(s)


Listed on the Canadian Register: 2012/11/02

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church is a large Gothic Revival church built in cruciform shape with a medium pitched roof. The exterior walls are constructed almost entirely of Prince Edward Island sandstone. The church is located on the north side of the Town of Souris overlooking the Souris River.

Heritage Value

St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church is valued for its construction using Island sandstone, combined with its original design, which serves as an exceptional example of Gothic Revival style. William Critchlow Harris, who is noted for his work in other island communities, was the architect for this magnificent structure. A fixture of the community, St Mary's Church is located on an elevation just north of the main town, and serves as a beacon to parishioners as well as to anyone with an appreciation for beautiful architectural design.

The first Roman Catholic church in Souris was constructed in 1838 by Thomas Stone and Michael Bagley. Parishioners were involved by clearing the building site and surrounding land of trees in preparation for construction. This church and adjacent parochial house were lost to fire in 1849. A second church was constructed that same year by Ronald Ban MacDonald, with the building of a new parochial house by Rev. James Phelan to follow in 1862.

In 1901, in order to accommodate a growing congregation, the construction of a new, larger church was commissioned. Harris was hired to oversee this task, along with local contractors James MacEachern and Edward Duffy, as well as Bernard Creamer. The original walls were built of sandstone quarried from the nearby community of Chepstow. Construction was completed in 1902, with a resulting marvel of architectural design. The first mass to be held in this new church was lead by Rev. Ronald B. MacDonald. Sadly, in 1929 a fire caused by a faulty flue destroyed the church's interior. All that remained were the original sandstone walls, and it was around these walls that architect John Marshall Hunter (1881-1942), rebuilt the church as a monument to Harris' original work. The interior was extensively renovated during the 1950s, by Monsignor J.A. Murphy.

St. Mary's Church boasts numerous architectural feats including its characteristic asymmetrical towers. The larger west corner tower was originally topped with a wooden spire which perished in the 1929 fire. This was replaced during the rebuilding by a copper neo-baroque cap. The facade of the church features Nova Scotia free stone decoratively placed around triple Gothic front windows, above similar gothic style doors. Free stone is also used in the upper portions of each tower as decorative alternation from the sandstone. The overall cruciform shape is formed by parallel side chapels on the east and west portions of the building. This massive structure can hold up to 1200 people.

The church remains in use by the local parish and is a prominent landmark within the community of Souris.

Source : Heritage Places files, Department of Education, Early Learning and Culture, Charlottetown, PEI
File # : 4310-20/S40

Character-Defining Elements

The heritage value of the church is shown in the following character-defining elements:

- the overall massing of the building
- the sandstone construction
- the cruciform shape
- the corner (west) tower with Neo-Baroque cap
- the triple gothic windows trimmed in free stone
- the side chapels featuring triple gothic windows
- the lower east tower topped by conical cap
- the medium pitched roof
- the buttresses along side elevations
- the wood paneled front doors



Prince Edward Island

Recognition Authority

Province of Prince Edward Island

Recognition Statute

Heritage Places Protection Act

Recognition Type

Registered Historic Place

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)


Theme - Category and Type

Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
Architecture and Design

Function - Category and Type



Religion, Ritual and Funeral
Religious Facility or Place of Worship

Architect / Designer

William Critchlow Harris



Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

Source : Heritage Places files, Department of Education, Early Learning and Culture, Charlottetown, PE File # : 4310-20/S40

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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