May 17, 1857
Basilica Cathedral Archway, Welcome to St. John’s
On May 17, 1857 a single-span entrance arch constructed of Leinster granite, with a statue of John the Baptist carved in Carrara marble was erected on the grounds in frount of R.C. Cathedral, St. John’s (now Basilica).
The Arch is constructed of enormous blocks of granite and is surmounted by a marble statue of St. John the Baptist, patron of the city and one of the patrons of the Basilica. The statue is ten feet hight and was sculpted at Carrara, Italy, of pure white marble, by Fillipio Ghersi, of Italy. It represents the saint preaching penance, and holding in his right hand a baptismal shell.
The height of the arch and statue is 42 feet.
In 1907 the archway was repositioned to allow for the widening of the adjacent Military Roadand rebuilt with a triple arch span.
The arch is a traditional symbol of welcome, in Newfoundland spruce bough arches were often constructed to welcome visiting dignitaries. The idea of the John the Baptist arch was to weclome ships as they entered into ‘the narrows’ of St. John’s (at one time the only highway into the city). From the harbour entrace ship crews and passengers would look toward the town and there on the hill side to welcome them would be John the Baptist, the patron of the city.
On July 24, 2006 Heritage Designation for the Basilica Archway was recommended by the Heritage Advisory Committee for the City of St. John’s and accepted at a meeting of the City Council.
Recommended Website: Tour of the Historic Basilica Cathedral, St. John’s. http://www.thebasilica.ca/
Recommended Reading: Geology of the Roman Catholic Basilica of St. John the Baptist, St. John’s, Newfoundland: Department of Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC, 27695. http://journals.hil.unb.ca/index.php/gc/article/view/2739/3186