Cathedral of St. John (Winnipeg)

Cathedral of St. John (Winnipeg)

St. John's Cathedral is the Anglican cathedral in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. The cathedral church is located in the city's downtown on Anderson Avenue near Main Street and the Red River. St. John's Cathedral marks the birthplace of the Anglican Church in Western Canada.



In 1812, the first group of Selkirk Settlers established a burying ground immediately south of the present cathedral. It is the oldest Canadian Anglican parish west of the Great Lakes, which was established in October 1820 when the Rev. John West, the first Anglican priest in Western Canada, arrived from England under the auspices of the Church Missionary Society and the Hudson's Bay Company in the Red River Settlement to serve as chaplain to the Hudson's Bay officers and men, missionary to the aboriginal people in the area, and pastor to the Selkirk Settlers. The majority of the Selkirk Settlers were Presbyterians, but they attended Anglican services until the first Presbyterian minister arrived in 1851.

The Four Churches

There have been four churches on the site. The first was a Church Mission House constructed in 1822 by the Rev. John West near the south-east corner of the present cemetery; however, it was washed away in the great flood of 1826. In 1833 it was replaced by a second church, a stone building built on the site of the present Cathedral. This second church became the first Anglican Cathedral in Western Canada soon after the first Bishop of Rupert's Land, the Rt. Rev. David Anderson, was consecrated in 1849. The building was severely weakened by the flood of 1850, and thus a third building, also of stone, was erected on the same site from 1862 to 1863. The fourth and present Cathedral was reconstructed in 1926 using most of the stone from the previous building under the guidance and inspiration of Archbishop Samuel P. Matheson. It was regarded by him as a tribute and memorial of his predecessor, Archbishop Robert Machray. Archbishop Machray, who succeeded Bishop David Anderson in 1865, is regarded by many local Anglicans as having given unsparingly of his time and talents to St. John's and the Diocese of Rupert's Land for almost forty years. In 1893 he became the first Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.

The Cemetery

The cemetery, which surrounds the cathedral, is considered by locals as the history of Winnipeg in stone. It was established by the Selkirk Settlers after their arrival in the Red River Settlement in 1812, so it pre-dates the parish by eight years. The oldest marked grave (1832) is that of eight-month-old George Simpson, son of George and Frances Simpson, the Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company and his wife. The earliest graves were destroyed in the flood of 1826.

Provincial Heritage Site

In September, 2004, St. John's Cathedral was designated as a Heritage Site by the Hon. Eric Robinson, Manitoba Minister of Culture, Heritage and Tourism. The historical designation covers both the cathedral and the surrounding cemetery.

Design and Architecture


The present cathedral was designed by architects Parfitt and Prain, the cathedral is Norman-Gothic in style. The chancel was extended by eight feet in 2005 to allow for use of a chancel altar. All the furnishings in the chancel, with the exception of the organ console, can be removed, providing space for concerts, dance recitals, plays and other activities. In 2004 a sound and light booth, coat racks and library were installed in the narthex. The lighting in the Cathedral was upgraded in 2007.

The Organ

The organ, a gift of the women of the parish in 1927, is a Cassavant pipe organ, with three keyboards and two ranks of pipes. In 1927, the organ cost $8,700.00 CDN. It's replacement cost today would be close to $750,000.00 CDN. In addition to the organ, the Cathedral also uses a fine Baldwin grand piano.


Furnishings of interest are the solid brass eagle lectern (known affectionately as Big Bird since it was installed), a gift in 1890 to Archbishop Robert Machray on the 25th anniversary of his consecration as bishop, the intricately carved hexagonal oak pulpit (1907), the Italian marble font (1870), and a Coventry cross, made of nails salvaged from the mediaeval Coventry Cathedral which fell victim to the Blitz in World War II. The Cathedral also has a wealth of stained glass windows by various designers.


Throughout its long history, St. John's Cathedral has always been considered on of Winnepeg's vibrant parishes, and remains so today. Since 2002, St. John's Cathedral has been the only Canadian site to host the annual Trinity Conference by web cast from New York. In addition to innovative education programs, the Cathedral also engages in many ministries. Among these is the Outreach Ministry which provides financial support in the form of grants to organizations and groups in Winnipeg's North End with programs like literacy projects, community kitchens and bursaries that help to improve and enhance the life of the residents of the area. The Cathedral also supports a ministry that provides a home for refugees newly arrived in Manitoba. Every year the Cathedral congregation contributes to Winnipeg Harvest's Shelf-Help program and also supports the Thelma Wynne Project with clothing for newborns and its own Joshua Tree program which provides children from low-income families with hats, scarves and mittens - most of which are handknit by members of the congregation. Every year, the Cathedral's unique Festival of Advent Lessons and Carols draws visitors from all over the Diocese of Rupert's Land with a re-enactment of a period of the Cathedral's rich history. Today, St. John's Cathedral truly lives up to its motto as the parish that cherishes its past, looks to the future and lives in the present.


Tours of the Cathedral and the cemetery can be arranged by appointment by calling the Cathedral office at 1-204-586-8385 between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday.

External links

* [ St John's Cathedral, Winnipeg Official Website]

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