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South Shore Genealogical Society

Commemoration of St. John's Anglican Church, Lunenburg NS

On Sunday, October 11, 1998, St. John's Anglican Church, Lunenburg NS was commemorated as a National Historic Site by The Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada. Following are excerpts from the booklet published by the Board at that time - courtesy Eric Croft

In November 1994, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada recommended that St. John's be commemorated as a national historic site because of its contribution to the establishment of British authority and the Church of England in 18th-century Nova Scotia.This church's significance is also defined through the continuity of its role in the Anglican church and through the evolutionary nature of the building itself. St. John's is a distinctive example of the Gothis Revival style in Canadian church architecture and the building is an important anchor, symbolically and physically, in the town plan of Lunenburg.

..the construction of St. Paul's Anglican Church, the oldest in Canada,..the next congregation to be established was at Lunenburg in 1753 with services conducted on the parade by a French-speaking missionary sent out by the Anglican Church. Founded by Royal Charter, St. John's was constructed on the site of these services on the westernmost block of the public Parade Ground. Started in 1754, it was completed about 1763.

... In Lunenburg, Calvinists and Lutherans attended St. John's because, in the early days, it was the only church boasting the only missionary. As the dependence of the foreign Protestants on the Church of England lessened about the end of the 18th century, the future of St. John's came into question. The small number of Anglicans in the congregation and the cost of repairs to the building were immediate challenges...It is a credit to the small congregation that it attained self-sufficiency by the close of the 19th century and settled comfortably into a community of several other congregations made up of Presbyterians, Lutherans and Roman Catholics. a distinctive example of the Gothic Revival style in Canadian eccesiastical architecture. It evolved from a classical wooden meeting house structure through a Romantic Gothic Revival phase before achieving its present distinctive character through the combination of Ecclesiological Gothic Revival and Carpenter's Gothic elements. Through all the remodelling, the additions and the Gothic decorative details, the building retains a classically balanced form which at the same time creates a light and airy effect. The first steps in Gothicising the building began in the 1840s. William Lawson, a schoolmaster who later became principal of the Lunenburg Grammar School, designed a new tower "with handsome pinnacles in the Gothic style." A shift in architectural Gothic interpretation from the Romantic influenced various changes integrated into the form and decoration of St. John' church architecture [alterations inspired by changes in liturgical doctrine]...the return to the medieval church plan in which the chancel and altar were the focal St. John's...the addition of a chancel whose primary focus was the altar while the pulpit was de-emphasized. The nave was extended and the original flat plaster ceiling was also opened and a hammer-beam roof installed. Today's existing side aisles, added in 1892, were the work of a committee of carpenters from the congregation, who worked under the direction of Solomon Morash. St. John's Church continued its structural evolution and was further enhanced by interior decorative painting such as stencilled walls and ceilings and marbleized columns that continue to delight the eye. From the 1870s through the 1890s, St. John's took on a more pronounced Gothic air enhanced by such motifs as buttresses, pinnacles, pointed windows and pierced arcades.

...St. John's has become a visual icon as a classic architectural piece and because of its central role in the founding of the town...It has also received recognition by the Province of Nova Scotia, who designated it as a historic property, and by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, who has acknowledged its national historic and architectural significance. Moreover, as an important component of Old Town Lunenburg, St. John's Anglican Church has contributed to the decision of the international heritage community as respresented by UNESCO, who have declared Old Town Lunenburg a World Heritage Site.


News Updates

Photographs of the church before, during and after the fire:

November 1, 2001 - The Burning
November 2, 2001 - The Aftermath
The interior after the burning - November 2001
The interior clean up progress - December 7, 2001 and December 28, 2001
The exterior encapsulation progress - January 16, 2002, January 23 - 27, 2002, January 31, 2002, February 7 - 15, 2002 and February 23 - March 2, 2002
Non-structural elements
The restoration of the altar
The exterior before
The interior before
The interior Christmas 1991
"Simon Birch" 1997

Canadian Heritage Minister, Sheila Copps, commits financial assistance at parish hall meeting November 16, 2001
Photograph of Solomon Morash, master builder in charge of the 1892 changes
A Short History of St. John's Anglican Church
People buried under the Church 1761 - 1826
Anglican Diocese of Nova Scotia Historical and Architectural Survey and relevant Links
The Commemoration of St. John's Anglican Church as a National Historic Site October 11, 1998
Interesting Facts & Figures about St. John's

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