• 2018-05-22

Saint john heritage

The Official Blog of the Cathedral Heritage Foundation


John Leroux

New Brunswick's pre-eminent art historian, author and architect talks about the significance of Saint John's Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception was built in 1855, following the arrival of tens of thousands of Irish immigrants in  Saint John. The Irish immigrant community was not a wealthy one — but they were determined to build an inspiring house of worship overlooking the great Bay of Fundy.  And so stone by stone it was erected, largely by volunteers.

According to historical accounts of the time, the original Cathedral builders would work a full day at whatever paying job they could find. And then, in the evenings, some would volunteer as stone cutters in a local quarry,  while others would carry the stones the several miles to the Cathedral building site. Those who couldn’t bear the weight of the stones held lanterns to light the way.

The result was something quite remarkable.

John Leroux, architect and art historian, describes the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception:

“Architects and historians recognize the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception as an absolute gem of pre-Confederation Gothic revival architecture. Indeed, it's one of the finest examples in eastern Canada.

For the tens of thousands of Irish in the 1850s, building the Cathedral with their own hands was a tangible demonstration of peace, hope and prosperity. In fact, the Cathedral became a symbol of a region that continued to open its arms to immigration, to other cultures, new ideas, and new opportunities.

We can't lose our built heritage. These historic creations have been handed down to us as a great civic trust. A new generation deserves to see that the builders and architects of New Brunswick contributed meaningful spaces and structures that are central to the cultural heritage of Canada. They've added real tangible value  to our daily lives and we need to recognize  that we haven't treated them nearly as well as they've provided for us.  Our whole society will benefit from preserving them."

We agree. That’s why we’re committed to restoring and preserving the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception for future generations. Following the complete replacement of the 24,000 sq. ft. roof, our next priority is repairing the original ceiling. After many years of moisture infiltration, the plaster has become susceptible to further damage.

If you agree with John, your donation can help ensure our cultural heritage is as valued today as it was by the tens of thousands seeking refuge and brighter futures on our shores and whose determination raised an iconic beacon on our skyline -- the single greatest monument to the Irish in the city of Saint John.

Lynn Forbes Gautier

Lynn is the Executive Director of the Cathedral Heritage Foundation.  A lifelong traveler, Lynn loves to visit old cities and appreciates a society’s commitment to preserving its traditions and built heritage.


We need your help.

You can help restore the ceiling of Saint John’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Every dollar counts when it comes to saving one of New Brunswick’s most important heritage places. It's a National Treasure! Please consider donating today.

A message to our American Friends

The Cathedral Heritage Foundation is supported by the American Fund for Charities, a US 501(c)(3) non-profit organization EIN 52-2109597. Donations from US taxpayers to the Cathedral Heritage Foundation and the Cathedral Restoration Project through the American Fund for Charities are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by US law. The Cathedral Heritage Foundation has been reviewed by the American Fund for Charities and has been determined eligible to receive contributions through the AFC.

If you are a US taxpayer and wish to support the Cathedral Heritage Foundation and the Cathedral Restoration Project, you may make a secure online donation at www.americanfund.info. Please be certain to identify the Cathedral Heritage Foundation as the beneficiary of your gift of support.

Alternatively, you may download a printable donation form and send it with your check or credit card details to The American Fund for Charities, 2 Liberty Square, Suite 500 Boston, MA 02109-4884. Be sure to identify clearly the Cathedral Heritage Foundation and the Cathedral Restoration Project as the organization you wish the American Fund for Charities to support.

Following your donation, you will promptly be issued with the receipt necessary for income tax purposes.