A Brief History of St. Boniface Cathedral

A Brief History of St. Boniface Cathedral

St. Boniface Cathedral-Basilica is a Mother Church of Western Canada and a historical site of Manitoba. It was established in the Archdiocese of Saint-Boniface in 1818. 

St. Boniface Cathedral is situated at the heart of St. Boniface, which is Winnipeg’s French District. It is known for its iconic facade and architectural beauty. 

A Brief History of St. Boniface Cathedral 

A Brief History of St. Boniface Cathedral

Image from Winnipeg Architecture Foundation 

In 1818, Québécois Father Joseph-Norbert Provencher was sent to Manitoba to found the first permanent Roman Catholic post at the west of Great Lakes in present-day Canada at St. Boniface. 

After the church received the land title, the construction of the first church in Western Canada started. 

The present St. Boniface Cathedral has a facade and walls that date back to 1905-1908. Its structure consists of the third cathedral and the fifth church. 

Its structure started with Provencher’s humble wood building. Eventually, it evolved into more elaborate designs after the diocese was granted cathedral status in 1847. 

Montreal architects Marchand and Haskell designed the 1905-08 cathedral with its original towers soaring 150 feet. Around 2,050 congregations sat under the beehive-like roofs. 

The cathedral features several architectural styles, including the Romanesque and the Byzantine. An enormous arch, a massive round window opening, and a triple-arched entryway at ground level welcome the congregation. 

Unfortunately, the cathedral was destroyed partially during the fire of 1968. Manitoba architect Étienne Gaboury led the reconstruction of St. Boniface Cathedral, who decided not to recreate the previous structure but create a new hybrid construction instead.

The new cathedral’s interior was defined by warm wood cladding and a soaring canted roof, which focused the beautiful Prairie sunlight. However, it was destroyed by fire in 2018.

Over the following decades, St. Boniface witnessed the construction of numerous Brutalist and late-modern style projects such as in small commercial structures on Provencher Boulevard and rue Marion. 

In 2013, the area was known for its dramatic cable-stayed footbridge over the Red River, Esplanade Riel, which uniquely houses an enclosed cantilevered space home. 

Restoration Efforts and Current Renovations at St. Boniface Cathedral

Restoration Efforts and Current Renovations at St. Boniface Cathedral

Image from Aquanet

Historical structures cannot escape the devastating effects of time. After the fire of 1968, The St. Boniface Cathedral needed immediate repair.

As the ancient walls and steps crumble, the historical cemetery also suffers from flooding every year. The stained-glass windows created by architect Etienne J. Gaboury needed repair while the roof needed replacement.

Today, the Franco-Manitoban community continues to sustain the protection of St. Boniface Cathedral as a historical building and an attraction for Winnipeg. 

The cathedral at St. Boniface is undergoing current renovation projects as its interior is showing significant signs of aging. Preserving and maintaining it will continuously serve the parish and the community. 

The current renovation project at St. Boniface Cathedral includes modifications to the parish hall and kitchen, sanctuary, altar, and baptismal fonts. Moreover, it includes upgraded lighting, a new sound system, the installation of air conditioning, and visitor reception. 

And that concludes the brief history of St. Boniface Cathedral. If you want to know more about its history and current renovation project, you can visit their website for more details.