Cathedral of St. John the Baptist (St. John's)

The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist is an Anglican cathedral located in the city of St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. The church is considered to be the mother church for Anglicans in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Cathedral of St. John the Baptist
47°33′56″N 52°42′30″W / 47.5655°N 52.7082°W / 47.5655; -52.7082
Address16 Church Hill, St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador
ChurchmanshipCentral churchmanship
Founder(s)Edward Feild
DedicationJohn the Baptist
EventsGreat Fire of 1892
Functional statusActive
Architectural typeCathedral
StyleGothic Revival
Years built1847 – 1905
Length200 feet (61 m)
Nave width60 feet (18 m)
Width across transepts99 feet (30 m)
Height80 feet (24 m)
Nave height57 feet (17 m)
DioceseEastern Newfoundland and Labrador
ParishCathedral Parish of St John's
Bishop(s)Samuel Rose
DeanRoger Whalen
Director of musicSharon Whalen
Official nameSt. John the Baptist Anglican Cathedral National Historic Site of Canada

The cathedral is the seat for the Bishops of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador, Sam Rose, since 2020.[1]

The Anglican parish in the Diocese of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador was founded in 1699 in response to a petition drafted by the Anglican townsfolk of St. John's and sent to Henry Compton, Bishop of London. In this petition, the people also requested help in the rebuilding of their church, which had been destroyed, along with the rest of the city, in 1696 by the French under the command of Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville.

During the centuries, at least six wooden churches stood on or near this site; each was destroyed by military operations during the various wars between the French and the British. The British finally won control of eastern North America. As of 2019, this Parish allows clergy to officiate same-sex marriages.[2][3][4]


Exterior of the cathedral, 1871

Construction of the first stone church was begun in 1843 under the direction of Aubrey Spencer, the first Bishop of Newfoundland and Bermuda.[5][6] Little progress was made on this relatively modest edifice beyond the laying of a cornerstone before Spencer resigned due to ill health. The stone church was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1846.

The present cathedral was begun in 1847 by Edward Feild, the second Bishop of Newfoundland and Bermuda. Feild commissioned plans from a leading Gothic Revival architect, George Gilbert Scott, who envisioned a more impressive cruciform structure, with varied ornamentation in the 12th-century English style. The nave, built between 1847 and 1850, served as the entire cathedral church for 35 years. Scott's assistant, architect William Hay, oversaw the nave's construction.[7] In the City of Hamilton, in Pembroke Parish (where St. John's Church was already the parish church), Bermuda, a chapel-of-ease (designed by James Cranston of Oxford in 1844 and completed in 1869) named Trinity Church was also erected, with an adjacent Bishop's Lodge. This was destroyed by arson in 1884 and William Hay, who had been consulted on the construction of Trinity Church in 1848-1849 and again in 1862, was hired in 1885 with his partner, George Henderson, to design the current structure, which was completed in 1905 and became the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity when the Bishop of Bermuda was established as separate from the Bishop of Newfoundland in 1919).

Construction on the choir and transept section did not commence until 1880 and was completed in September 1885, under the direction of Bishop James Kelly. The additions to the nave gave the cathedral the shape of a Latin cross. It continued the era of Gothic Revival architecture in the construction of nineteenth-century Anglican churches in Newfoundland.

The cathedral after the Great Fire of 1892. The building was not completely restored until 1905.

On July 8, 1892, in an unhappy coincidence to the fate of its chapel-of-ease in Bermuda, the cathedral was extensively damaged in the Great Fire of 1892. The roof timbers ignited, which caused the roof to collapse, bringing the clerestory walls and piers in the nave down with it. The intense heat caused the lead to melt in the glass windows, resulting in the complete destruction of all but two; the sole surviving window can be seen in the Sacristy. Restoration of the Cathedral commenced in 1893, again under Kelly's direction. By 1895, the Chancel and Transepts had been rebuilt, while the Nave reached completion in 1905. The restored cathedral is renowned internationally as one of North America's best ecclesiastical Gothic Revival structures. The church was re-consecrated in a service on September 21, 1905. A window in the restored Cathedral was dedicated to Kelly, who died in 1907.[citation needed]

In 1923 the Congolese-English sculptor Mahomet Thomas Phillips, and his son Lancelot, completed a reredos for the cathedral that took them 2,779 hours to create.[8]

The Te Deum Window was donated in 1952 in memory of Bermudian-born Sir Joseph Outerbridge by his family.[9][10] A large four-manual organ was constructed by Casavant Frères in the 1950s.[11]

The Cathedral remains incomplete as the structure still lacks the spire which its designer, Scott, had envisioned. Although an engineering team has established that the proposed 150-foot (46 m) tower and steeple is structurally feasible, the cost was estimated to be $3,000,000. The clergy and parishioners remain committed to completing Scott's plans and are hopeful that they will see the spire erected.[citation needed]

The cathedral was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1979 as a nationally significant example of Gothic Revival architecture.[12] The building was also designated as a Registered Heritage Structure by the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador in 1991,[13] and a City of St. John's Heritage Building in 1989.[14]



The Cathedral stretches 200 feet (61 m) from the Great West Doors to the Sanctuary, with a 60-foot (18 m)-wide nave and a maximum width of 99 feet (30 m) at the transepts. Where nave and transept cross, the floor-to-ceiling height is 57 feet (17 m); outside, the roof stands 80 feet (24 m) high at the ridge.

See also



  1. ^ Robotham, Robert (December 1, 2020). "Samuel Rose elected as Bishop of E. NFLD & Labrador".
  2. ^ "Anglican Diocese of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador affirms same-sex marriage |". Global News. Retrieved 2023-08-23.
  3. ^ "Diocese of Central Newfoundland". Anglican Samizdat. 2019-10-27. Retrieved 2023-08-23.
  4. ^ Anglican Cathedral of St. John the Baptist (2020). "Baptisms & Weddings". Anglican Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. Retrieved August 19, 2023. Any couples who are legally permitted to be married in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, can request to be married here at the Cathedral. In other words, we welcome and celebrate with same-sex couples, just as we do with male-female couples.
  5. ^ "Our History". Anglican East NL. Anglican Diocese of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador. Retrieved 2021-08-17.
  6. ^ Piper, Liza (2000). "The Church of England". Heritage Newfoundland and Labrador. Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage Web Site. Retrieved 2021-08-17.
  7. ^ "Church of England Cathedral, Saint John's, Newfoundland." Vol. 3, No. 13 Canada Farmer (Toronto) (April 1, 1871), p. 204.
  8. ^ Hughes, H (17 October 2022). "Mahomet Thomas Phillips Part 2". University of Lincoln.
  9. ^ "Passing of Sir Joseph Outerbridge, Kt.," The Western Star, Newfoundland. 18 October 1933.
  10. ^ A Brief History of the Cathedral and the Parish of St. John the Baptist. 'The source for the document was the Cathedral's former website, which credits Dr. Stephanie Kennell and Mrs. Julia Mathieson. The former website was developed by the Rev'd Roger Whalen, and later maintained by Andrew Reid. Copied with minor modifications 11 October 2008 by Dr. David Tulett, and revised 2 February 2009.'
  11. ^ "Events of the Year 1955 in the Organ World in Review" (PDF). The Diapason. 47 (2): 6. January 1, 1956. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 25, 2022. Retrieved October 25, 2022.
  12. ^ St. John the Baptist Anglican Cathedral National Historic Site of Canada. Canadian Register of Historic Places. Retrieved 14 July 2012.
  13. ^ Anglican Cathedral of St. John The Baptist Registered Heritage Structure. Canadian Register of Historic Places. Retrieved 14 July 2012.
  14. ^ Anglican Cathedral of St. John The Baptist Municipal Heritage Building. Canadian Register of Historic Places. Retrieved 14 July 2012.

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