St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church is a wooden, Gothic Revival church located on Chapel Hill in Bonavista, NL. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.
Statement of Significance
Formal Recognition Type
Registered Heritage Structure
St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church was designated a Registered Heritage Structure by the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador in 1999 due to its aesthetic and historic value.
St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church is one of only a few Roman Catholic Churches built on the Bonavista Peninsula. Bonavista was settled as a predominantly Protestant region. Until 1767, Catholics were forbidden by the local magistrate to build homes in Bonavista; they could not practice their religion freely in Newfoundland until Catholic emancipation was granted in 1832. Still, by the early nineteenth century, a small Catholic congregation – just over 25% of Bonavista’s population of approximately 1700 – had established themselves in the community. In 1815, the Catholics of Bonavista raised sufficient funds to start construction on their own church. They were soon halted by Magistrate Gerrard Ford, a staunch Anglican who forbade them from continuing without a land grant from the governor. Thomas Scallan, soon-to-be Roman Catholic Bishop of St. John’s, appealed to Governor Francis Pickmore on their behalf and a grant was awarded to the congregation. Construction began on St. Joseph’s, but the church was not completed until 1842. St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church stands as a reminder of the complex sectarianism of early Newfoundland settlement and of minority sects’ determination to build their own places of worship.
St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church is a good example of an outport church in an early Gothic Revival style. Gothic Revival architecture, popular for ecclesiastical buildings at the time, is seen here with little of the elaborate ornamentation found in larger churches. Simple green trim and green wooden shingles serve as an accent against the white wooden clapboard. The mid-pitch gable roof is topped with an octagonal belfry and steep spire, which features a wooden cross pinnacle. A carved quatrefoil medallion is centred above two multi-paned Gothic arched windows on the gable end. The most intricate Gothic features of St. Joseph’s are the windows. Tall, pointed arch windows run the length of the church. In contrast to the simple design of the rest of church, the windows are ornamented with elaborate wooden hood molds. Delicately carved trefoils rest within the Y-tracery. The church is flanked by two buttresses at the front façade and these are peaked with finials. St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church sits on the summit of a small hill, a prominent landmark visible from Bonavista Harbour.
Source: Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador property file “Bonavista – St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church – FPT 178”
Character Defining Elements
All those elements that represent Gothic Revival style, including;
-mid-pitch gable roof;
-narrow wooden clapboard;
-wooden roof shingles;
-cupola with spire;
-carved wooden medallion;
-buttresses with finials;
-original window and door openings;
-pointed arch wooden windows with carved wooden hood molds and decorative trim;
-enclosed porch with wooden plank doors;
-placement within community;
-location, orientation, dimensions;
-visibility from Bonavista Harbour;
-prominent hilltop location, and;
-proximity to St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Presbytery.
Notes: St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church received a Southcott Award from the Newfoundland and Labrador Historic Trust in 2005 for excellence in heritage restoration.
Location and History
Town of Bonavista
1815 - 1842
Rectangular Short Façade