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Listed on the Canadian Register:
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.
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
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
Province of Prince Edward Island
Heritage Places Protection Act
Registered Historic Place
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
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