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St. Brigid's Church

314, St. Patrick Street, Ottawa, Ontario, K1N, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1992/03/03

Detail of the northwest tower of St. Brigid's Church – 2001; OHT, 2001
View of one of St. Brigid's Towers – 2001
The apse and alter at St. Brigid's Church – 2006; OHT, 2006
Interior south view of St. Brigid's Church – 2006
View of the main (north) façade of St. Brigid's Church showing the two towers – 2004; OHT, 2004
View of the north façade – 2004

Other Name(s)

St. Brigid's Church
St. Brigid's Roman Catholic Church

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)


Listed on the Canadian Register: 2008/02/26

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The building at 314 St Patrick Street, known as St. Brigid's Roman Catholic Church, is situated on the corner of St Patrick and Cumberland Streets in the City of Ottawa. The limestone building was designed in the Romanesque Revival style by architect John R. Bowes and was constructed in 1889-90.

The interior and exterior as well as the scenic quality of the property are protected by an Ontario Heritage Trust conservation easement. The property is also designated by the City of Ottawa under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act (By-law 129-81).

Heritage Value

Located on the corner of St. Patrick Street, west of Cumberland Street and north of Murray Street, St. Brigid's Church is a distinctive part of the streetscape. St. Brigid's is in the Heritage Conservation District of Lowertown near the City of Ottawa's Byward Market. The two irregular spires are a landmark in the Lowertown skyline. St. Brigid's has a long-lasting affiliation with community outreach programs and it has become a social landmark in the area.

In 1888 a desire to create a place of worship to accommodate the specific needs of the English-speaking parishioners (who were mostly Irish) of Notre Dame Basilica led to discussions of erecting a new church. John Lyons was awarded the tender to build the church and the cornerstone was laid for St. Brigid's on 5 May 1889 to meet the needs of the mostly Irish-Catholic community. The Church is associated with the Grey Sisters of the Immaculate Conception who taught at the schools associated with St. Brigid's.

St. Brigid's Church is an example of Romanesque Revival architecture in Eastern Ontario. The Church built by John Lyons and designed by John R. Bowes follows a basilica plan. The Church's foundation is set on bedrock and the exterior walls are made of load-bearing grey Gloucester limestone laid in random ashlar courses. Dressed stone was used for the semi-circular window voussoirs, quoins, coping, belt courses and sills. The exterior design of St. Brigid's Church also has a Celtic influence which is demonstrated in its rusticated masonry walls, understated buttress and relatively small windows. The column capitals on the main (north) wall and east and west sides of the towers are made of Gloucester sandstone. The two towers at the east and west side of the north façade are two different heights. One of the towers is more French in style, and the other is rather Russian inspired. The spires are sheathed in sheet metal that was originally galvanized and then painted with aluminium paint. Decorative finials and crosses were crafted in wrought iron and wood. The windows have wooden frames, and the stained glass windows by Castle and Co., depict St. Brigid, St. Patrick, St. Anne, the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph.

The interior of the Church was designed by Bowes in the Gothic-Revival style. A central nave with side aisles incorporates a raised chancel with a square plan at the south end. The vestry facilities are located in the basement and have access to the chancel via winding staircases at the rear of the altar. Toussaint-Xénophon Renaud, who decoratively painted the interiors of over 200 churches in Quebec, Ontario, the Maritimes and New England, painted murals with scenes from the Nativity and the Descent from the Cross behind the main altar. These murals are sided by faux stone panels. The interior includes many painted wooden elements and plaster work. The ceilings are fan vaulted with pendants and supported by clustered columnettes with carved and gilded capitals. The upper portions of the nave's walls are covered in canvas. A balcony at the north end of the nave includes the choir and a Casavant organ that has Irish harps stencilled on it. The wood wainscoting and pews are constructed of ash with hand-carved walnut trim.

Source: OHT Easement Files

Character-Defining Elements

Character defining elements that contribute to the heritage value of the St. Brigid's Church include its:
- exterior walls made of grey Gloucester limestone
- dressed stone used for the voussoirs, quoins, coping, belt courses and sills
- paired semi-circular arches on the north façade
- Celtic influence
- rusticated masonry
- understated buttress
- relatively small windows
- engaged sandstone columns
- two large towers of different designs and styles
- spires sheathed in aluminium
- decorative finials and crosses
- basilica plan
- interior central nave with raised chancel
- painted wood and plaster work
- heavy mouldings and trim in the sanctuary
- fan vaulted ceiling
- canvassed walls in the nave
- winding staircase at the rear of the altar
- ash wainscoting and pews with walnut detailing
- restored murals originally painted by Toussaint-Xénophon Renaud
- Casavant organ
- stained glass windows
- social landmark status for its community outreach programs
- its key location on a major intersection within the Lowertown Heritage District




Recognition Authority

Ontario Heritage Trust

Recognition Statute

Ontario Heritage Act

Recognition Type

Ontario Heritage Foundation Easement

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)

1981/01/01 to 1981/01/01

Theme - Category and Type

Building Social and Community Life
Religious Institutions

Function - Category and Type



Religion, Ritual and Funeral
Religious Institution

Architect / Designer

John R. Bowes


John Lyons

Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

Conservation Easement Files Ontario Heritage Trust 10 Adelaide Street East Toronto, Ontario

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




Related Places

Lowertown West Heritage Conservation District Map

Lowertown West Heritage Conservation District

The Lowertown West Heritage Conservation District comprises many blocks of residential and institutional development within Ottawa's central core. The district is immediately…


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