Historic Sites of Manitoba: St. Boniface Cathedral (190 Avenue de la Cathedrale, Winnipeg)
A modest plaque located in the northwest corner of the St. Boniface Cathedral Cemetery at the intersection of Tache Avenue with Avenue de la Cathedrale gives the dates of the five cathedral building that have occupied this site.
The first church, a simple log structure, was constructed in November 1818 by Father Joseph-Norbert Provencher. He dedicated it to Saint Boniface, the English missionary, monk and apostle who spread the Catholic faith among the Germanic tribes in the 8th century. Saint Boniface, the first permanent mission west of the Great Lakes, became the heart of Roman Catholic missionary activity extending to the Pacific and Arctic coasts, as well as serving the growing population of the Red River Settlement. The church was replaced in 1825.
In 1832, Provencher erected a cathedral surmounted by twin spires, and in 1862 a stone cathedral was built under the direction of Bishop Taché. On 15 August 1906, Archbishop Langevin blessed the cornerstone of what became one of the most imposing churches in Western Canada. Designed by the Montreal architectural firm of Marchand and Haskell, this structure, the best example of French Romanesque architecture in Manitoba, was completed in 1908. It was gutted by an extensive fire on 22 July 1968, leaving its stone walls intact.
The present cathedral, blessed by Archbishop Baudoux in 1972, was designed by Franco-Manitoban architect Étienne Gaboury. It incorporates the sacristy, façade and walls of the former basilica. In the façade lie the tombs of the bishops of Saint-Boniface. A Heritage Canada Foundation National Award of Honour plaque on the right hand side of the original main entrance to the Cathedral acknowledges the work in preserving and integrating the main façade into the new building.
A bronze plaque near the main entrance of the old St. Boniface Cathedral, unveiled on 22 October 1944, honours the memory of Métis leader Louis Riel. The building is a municipally-designated historic site.
St. Boniface Cathedral, Manitoba Historic Resources Branch.
Information for this page was provided by The City of Winnipeg’s Planning, Property and Development Department, which acknowledges the contribution of the Government of Manitoba through its Heritage Grants Program.
We thank George Penner for providing additional information used here.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 21 December 2019
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