MHS Centennial Organization: Cathedral Church of St. John

St. John’s is the oldest Anglican parish west of the Great Lakes, and consequently its congregation enjoys a bond with the past rivalled by few other churches in its Diocese. In the church you will find frequent references to the Honourable Hudson’s Bay Company, which had close ties with the Parish in its early years, the Red River Settlement whose people were ministered to by the Anglican clergy of this Parish (in spite of the fact that most of them were Presbyterian!) and the Red River Academy, which evolved into St. John’s College School under Bishop Anderson and many years later merged with another school to become St. John’s Ravenscourt.

Four church buildings have occupied the present site of the Cathedral, which was chosen by Lord Selkirk as an appropriate place to build a church to provide spiritual guidance for the Red River Settlers. Until 1852 and the arrival of Presbyterian minister John Black, St. John’s clergy ministered to all non-Roman Catholics in this part of the world. The first church was a simple wooden structure, built in 1822 by the Reverend John West, who was the first Anglican clergyman west of the Great Lakes and east of the Rockies. The second was built of stone in 1833. It was consecrated as the first Cathedral in Rupert’s Land in 1853. It was replaced in 1862 under the auspices of the Right Reverend David Anderson, first Bishop of Rupert’s Land (from 1849 to 1864). Both the third (1862) and fourth (1926) buildings used stone from the second building.

The present Cathedral was built in 1926. Designed by Gilbert Parfitt and Edgar Prain of Winnipeg, it incorporates elements of medieval English design, with a Norman tower and barrel-vaulted ceiling, and Gothic arched doors and windows. Two of the stonemasons, both in their eighties, who worked on the present Cathedral had also worked on the 1862 building. In 1959, a two-storey addition was built onto the northeast corner and now houses the Dean’s Vestry and Office, the Sacristy, the Church Office, the Choir Room, and the Ministries Office.

References to north/south/east/west are ecclesiastical rather than geographical. In Anglican churches, the location of the high altar is always referred to as the east.

An MHS Centennial Organization Award was presented by Jacqueline Friesen on 16 April 2004.

See also:

Historic Sites of Manitoba: St. John’s Cathedral and Cemetery

Page revised: 20 July 2011