Tag Archives: basilica

Grand Organ for the Cathedral of St. John’s, Newfoundland

An organ built by Thomas J. Robson organ builder to her majesty. Likely like the first organ in the Basilica Cathedral, St. John’s.

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

August 12, 1852

On  August 12, 1852 the local newspaper The Newfoundlander copied an article from a London newspaper The Sun that made reference to a grand organ that was destined for Newfoundland

The article reads:

 “A magnificent organ, destined for the above Cathedral, (the R.C. Cathedral) as just been completed by Mssers Robsons of St. Martin’s Lane, where, prior to its transmission across the Atlantic, a numerous and fashionable assemblage of ladies and gentlemen, including many amateurs and professors, have for several days past  attended to hear the merits tested by Messer’s, Rea, Noble, Pritchard, Nottingham, and other eminent artists. The whole cost, amounting to 1500 has been defrayed by the Right Reverend Dr. (Bishop John  Mullock),  who presents this stupendous and brilliant instrument to the Cathedral in St. John’s, Newfoundland.”   – Sun

Thomas J. Robson  was no ordinary organ builder,  he carried the title “organ  builder to her majesty.”

Upon the arrival of the fine instrument in St. John’sthe first organist appointed to the R.C. Cathedral and to the care of the organ was Thomas Mullock an accomplished organist in Limerick, Ireland, he came toSt. John’s at the invitation of his brother (the bishop). He stayed inSt. John’s and remained as organist for about fifteen years.

For much of his life, Thomas remained in the shadow of his brother. He lived quietly supplementing his income by teaching music and raising his young family. In December 1854 he was devastated when his only child Charlotte Mary died at the age of 2 years,10 months.

Upon returning toIrelandhe was employed as the organist at St. Mary’s,Irish Town, Main Street, Clonmel. He knew the town well as he was married to Charlotte Frances O’Brien daughter of Daniel O’Brien of Clonmel.

Due to deterioration this “Grand Organ” over the years, it was dismantled in 1938 under the direction of (Sir) Charles Hutton and was replaced by a Hammond electronic organ.

This, in turn, was replaced in 1954-55 by the organ that is presently used in the Cathedral Basilica. The new organ has 66 stops and a total of 4050 pipes.

The installation actually comprises two organs; the main organ of 51 stops located in the organ gallery, and the sanctuary organ of 15 stops arranged behind the main altar. Each organ may be played from the main organ gallery either separately, or, if desired, simultaneously with the main organ. The organ was built and installed by Casavant Freres Limited ofSt. Hyacinthe,Quebec.

Recommended Archival Collection:  Take some time to explore MG 590 at The Rooms Provincial Archives; MG590 is the Charles Hutton and Sons fonds. It consists of textual records relating to the business interests of Charles Hutton & Sons in St. John’s 1930-1938.  The collection consists of correspondence between the company and patrons inNewfoundland andCanada, requesting songs, musical instruments and other enquiries.

Recommended Reading: An introduction to the Pipe Organs in Newfoundland and Labrador by Dr. David Peter’s, 2012 (unpublished)

Recommended Reading: The British Invasion Lives on! Pipe Organs of Newfoundland and Labrador Canada by Lester Goulding and William Vineer : The Diapason, July 2013.

A tiff over fashion, what to wear to church on Sunday?

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

July 23, 1854

What will I wear to mass?

Edward Morris, the Manager of the Newfoundland Savings Bank in St. John’s, Newfoundland in his diary for July 23, 1854 wrote that he had a wee tiff with his wife  (Katherine Howley) it appears she was not happy with him, she was in fact so displeased with him that she refused to go to church with him.

Edward wrote in his dairy:

“Mrs Morris went to 8 o’clock mass at the Cathedral (now Basilica) giving as a reason for going early that she had no decent dress to appear in at a more fashionable hour.”

The 8 o’clock mass tended to be the mass that the kitchen maids, scullery cooks, chamber maids, house maids, sewing maids  and  the other servants attended.  The staff would all  get up early,  attend the mass, and be home before their employers and their families got up.

There was no compromise, Edward insisted that he was going to the regular 10 o’clock mass, he was not concerned about the latest clothing fashions.

Edward was quite pleased that he did attend this particular mass and no doubt delighted in reminding his wife  that  during the celebration he was  witness to a great deal of history.

THE CATHEDRAL BELLS

He wrote:

 Went to mass myself where the Bishop  (Mullock) consecrated two Bells part of the intended chime one the largest dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.  The other & smaller to St Patrick the Patron Saint of Ireland …The Bishop having consecrated the Bells ascended the pulpit and explained the ceremony.”

A PLACE FOR THE EVANGELISTS

Edward also observed that:

“Today (July 23, 1854) the figures of the four evangelists were all fixed up in their places.”   

The statues of the four evangelists, St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke andSt. John are located some thirty feet above the floor  of  the Cathedral. These are of Italian workmanship. They are of marble and are slightly larger than life-size. Each evangelist is shown with his appropriate symbol: St. Matthew with a child; St. Mark with a lion; St. Luke with an ox; and St. John with an eagle.

A PLACE FOR THE NUNS

It was not only the evangelists that found their place in the Cathedral on July 23, 1854. Mr. Morris also noted:

“And the nuns (Presentation Sisters)  for the first time occupied the gallery appropriated to them behind the high altar.”

The  gallery is now  situated  behind a grilled window set in the east wall of the apse. From the small room behind this window, the Sisters of the Presentation can participate in the Parish Masses.

Recommenced Reading; Biographical Sketch on Edward Morris:  http://www.biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?BioId=39843

Recommended Archival Collection:   At the Archives of the R.C. Archdiocese: The Edward Morris Diaries:  Edward Morris was a businessman, politician, and office-holder; born in 1813 in Waterford (Republic of Ireland), son of Simon Morris. In  1852  Edward married Katherine Howley ofSt  John’s.

Recommended Virtual Exhibit: From Cornerstone to Cathedral- History of the Basilica Cathedral, St. John’s.  http://www.museevirtuel-virtualmuseum.ca/sgc-cms/expositions-exhibitions/basilique-basilica/en/index.html

The Great Fire of 1892.

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

July 8, 1892   

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: B4-49; St. John’s East in ruins folloing the Great Fire. (note the Basilica in the background)

Late in the afternoon of 8 July 1892, a small fire broke out in a St. John’s stable on Freshwater Road after a lit pipe or match fell into a bundle of hay. Although containable at first, the flames quickly spread due to dry weather conditions.  Within hours, the fire had destroyed almost all of St. John’s.

The fire burned into the night and did not end until about 5:30 the following morning.  Many people camped out in Bannerman Park or on property surrounding the Roman Catholic Cathedral (now Basilica), which was one of the few buildings the fire did not destroy.

As the sun rose on 9 July, more than two-thirds of St. John’s lay in ruins and 12,000 people were homeless; many had lost everything they owned, except the clothes they were wearing.

One of the accounts written about the fire was penned by W.J. Kent   who wrote:

“All the arteries which led from the water to the higher portions of the town were crowded with the terrorised mob and the screams and cries of the women mingled with the wailing of children, the shouts intensified by the ever-freshening masses of livid fire and the glare of the burning buildings, contributed to make a scene the like of which it is not often given to the lot of many to witness…. Few there were who closed their eyes that night.”

Four persons were burned to death.  The devastation that struck the city was recorded by one of the priests on staff at the R.C. Cathedral (the Basilica) who wrote on Sunday July 10, 1892”

 “There was no publications today in consequence of the great calamity that has happened in our city on Friday evening and night, when the best part of St. John’s east was entirely destroyed by fire which caused such a panic that everyone is excited and frightened and nearly 12, 000 persons are left homeless, over 2000 houses were burned besides stores, wharfs…”

At the Last Mass, Father Scott preached a very touching sermon about the fire and those who were its sufferers from its effects.  Four persons were burned to death, namely:

Mrs. Catherine Stevens    }lived on Meeting House Hill

Her daughter Louisa Stevens

And the servant girl – name not known

Also Miss Catherine Molloy, Bulley’s Lane, and elderly girl not married

RIP

 

The Great Fire of 1892

Rev. Moses Harvey at  St. Andrews Free Presbyterian Church on the day following the fire walked about the city, he presents a similar description of the devastation and plight of the victims of the fire.

“The next morning I took a walk around the awful scene of devastation. It was heart-rending. Nothing visible for a mile from Devon Row but chimneys and fallen and tottering walls. The thick smoke, from the smouldering ruins still filled the air… The wrecks of the fanes of religion stood out, then [sic] broken walls pointing heavenward, as if in mournful protest against the desecration that had been wrought.

And the poor inhabitants, where were they? It made the heart ache to see the groups of men, women and children, with weary, blood-shot eyes and smoke begrimed faces, standing over their scraps of furniture and clothing — some of them asleep on the ground from utter exhaustion — all with despondency depicted on their faces. They filled the park and grounds around the city. Many hundreds escaped with nothing but the clothes they wore… .”

Recommended Reading: St. John’s, City of Fire, by Paul Butler, Flanker Press,  St. John’s. 2007.   

Recommended on line account: The St. John’s Fire of July 8, 1892: The Politics of Rebuilding, 1892-1893 by  Melvin Baker (c)1984. Originally published in the Newfoundland Quarterly, vol. LXXIX, no. 4 (Winter 1984), pp. 23-30.  http://www.ucs.mun.ca/~melbaker/1892fire.htm

Recommended Archival Collection:   Take some time at the  Archives Division of  the Rooms to look at MG 596  this item consists of map showing area of city affected by the 1892 fire. A number of photos of the Great Fire of 1892 that document the extent and devastation of the fire are also held in the photograph collection of The Rooms Provincial Archives Division.

Recommended Walk: Walk St. John’s takes you back in time to explore some of St. John’s most historic structures. Select one of the round-trip walking tours which take you through the streets of St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, where much of the city was destroyed by fire on at least three occasions. Experience the alluring streetscapes and heritage architecture, which stand as a testament to the resilience and perseverance of its citizens who rebuilt time and again over the ashes of its past structures. Celebrate one of the oldest cities in Canada by exploring each of these unique walking tours in a city where walking and exploring is encouraged. Read More: Play Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=tpled.walkstjohn4.app&hl=en

 

Mysterious Iceberg off St. John’s

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

June 24, 1905

“Our Lady of the Fjords”

Mysterious Iceberg in St. John’s Narrows, T.B. Hayward. June 24, 1905

On  June 24, 1905 T.B. Hayward a St. John’s artist and photographer pointed his camera in the direction of a mysterious iceberg off the Narrows of St. John’s, and snapped a picture of what is likely the oldest known photograph believed to be a depiction of a supernatural Christian presence.

The photograph in ques­tion depicts what many people believe is a clear picture of a wondrous iceberg showing the figure of the Virgin Mary in the narrows off St. John’s. How similar to a statue the original iceberg looked is unknown. The photographer (T.B. Hayward) was really a painter of Newfoundland scenes, particularly marine scenes. His method was to photograph a scene and then paint the photograph.

The Catholic Archbishop, in St. John’s, Michael Francis Howley, who saw the iceberg from the steps of the Basilica Cathedral, was so impressed by the extraordinary iceberg that he wrote an article published in The Tablet, the Catholic Diocesan newspaper for Boston describing the iceberg as the “Crystal Lady.”  He also endorsed the sale of postcards and photographs that were produced by Hayward for mass production.

Archbishop Howley perceived the iceberg to be a sacred sign, so moved by the sight that he com­posed a sonnet in honour of the frozen statue entitled “Our Lady of the Fjords.” In the sonnet, he refers to the glistening ice figure as “a shimmering shrine – our bright Atlantic Lourdes. The sonnet was published Newfoundland Quarterly in 1909.

Our Lady of the Fjords

Hail Crystal Virgin, from the frozen fjords
Where far-off Greenland’s gelid glaciers gleen
O’er Oceans bosom soaring, cool, serene
Not famed Carrara’s purest vein affords
Such sparkling brilliance, as mid countless hordes
Of spotless glistning bergs thou reignest Queen
In all the glory of thy opal sheen
A Shimmering Shrine; Our bright Atlantic Lourdes.
We hail thee, dual patront, with acclaim,
Thou standest guardian o er our Island home.
To-day, four cycles since, our rock-bound strand.
First Cabot saw: and gave the Baptist’s name:
To-day we clothe with Pallium from Rome.
The first Archbishop of our Newfoundland!

Contemporary Newfoundland author Wayne Johnson says his father grew up in a house blessed by water from this iceberg, which they called the “Virgin Berg.” Johnson wrote about the iceberg in his book  Baltimore’s Mansion.

The timing of this wondrous iceberg, this Marian apparition appearing in the St. John’s Narrows  was quite  significant.

June 24 on the Christian calendar is the Feast of St. John the Baptist.   On June 24, 1497  John Cabot ‘discovered”  Newfoundland,  it is the feast day of the patron saint of the R.C. Basilica Cathedral and the Anglican Cathedral  in St. John’s and the namesake for the capital city, St. John’s.

Recommended Reading:

The Newfoundland Quarterly, LXXXVI, no. 2. (1980)

Kodak Catholicism: Miraculous Photography and its Significance by Jessy C. PAGLIAROLI : Canadian Catholic Historical  Association (CCHA) , Historical Studies, 70 (2004), 71_93

Recommended Archival Collection:  Very few photographs of Thomas B. Hayward have been identified.  If you are aware of other photographs and sketches created by Thomas or his father J. W Hayward the  Rooms Provincial Archives Division would love to hear from you.

 

 

12,000 residents of St. John’s homeless

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

June 9, 1846

St. John’s previous to the fire of June 9, 1846

The origin of the fire, which broke out on  June 9, 1846, in St. John’s, has generally been attributed to the carelessness of a cabinet maker who lived on George Street.

By 7:00 p.m., when the fire had finally run its course, over 2,000 buildings had been burned and about 12,000 people, or 57 per cent of the town’s total population, left homeless. The total amount of property loss was estimated at £888,356.   Altogether, there were three casualties: one soldier died as a result of the demolition ordered on Water Street; one citizen collapsed while attempting to carry his possessions to safety; and one prisoner died in his cell when the gaol burnt. A few days after, two labourers clearing away ruins were killed by a falling wall.

Homeless Seek Shelter

On June 10, 1846 many of the 12,000 refugees from the fire could be found in make shift tents in this neighborhood (Fort Townsend) now the site of The Rooms. Others found shelter on the grounds of the new R.C. Cathedral (now Basilica) that was under construction, others in the area now called Bannerman Park on Military Road.

Recommended Reading: The Great St. John’s Fire of 1846 by Melvin Baker (c)1983 Originally published in the Newfoundland Quarterly, vol. LXXIX, no. 1 (Summer 1983) http://www.ucs.mun.ca/~melbaker/1846fire.htm

Recommended Archival Collection at the Provincial Archives in the Rooms:  MG 50.2:  Map of St. John’s, Newfoundland, showing all the buildings erected since the fire of the 9th of June 1846 from actual survey (MG 50.2)

 

THE “TOWN CLOCK”

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

June 1, 1859

Basilica 1841On June 1, 1859 the talk in St. John’s was all about the installation of a ‘Town Clock’ and ‘Sundial’.   The “town clock” was being installed in the East Tower of the Basilica Cathedral and the “sundial” in the West Tower.   For the residents of St. John’s the installation was significant. The “town clock” was a symbol of self confidence, a symbol of permanence.

In 1859 a town clock was considered one of the principal characteristics of a town. Could you really have the status of a town without a town clock?

In St. John’s, a comparable installation in modern times would have been the installation of the first escalator in the Old Woolworth’s Building.  This new contraption signaled that St. John’s was taking on the trappings of a modern city!!

The “Town Clock” that was being installed was manufactured by Borrel of Paris, and boasted a dial in enameled lava. In the tradition of the town clocks of the day, it was not a clock to be “watched” but rather designed to be “listened” too.  Residents of the town would listen and on the hour and half-hour, as the new clock struck the great bell (the Bourdon) it would sound out.  There are reports that when the clock struck it could be heard for miles around even as far away as Torbay.   (The word “clock” comes from the same root as glocke, the German word for bell.)

In the “west tower” the sundial was being installed primarily for aesthetic balance. The sundial is the most ancient instrument for measuring time. Before the invention of mechanical clocks mounted on towers, “sun clocks” were the only instruments used to indicate the public time.

In 1954, the mechanical works of the clock were converted to an electrical system, and a new dial was installed.  The ‘sundial was removed.

In 2009 two new clocks were installed in the towers of the Basilica replacing the original clock and sundial.

Recommended Website: Take a virtual tour of the Basilica. http://www.thebasilica.ca/index.cfm?load=page&page=186

 

 

 

The Portuguese in Newfoundland

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

May 27, 1955

 

It is estimated that  four to five thousand Portuguese Fishermen carried the Fatima statues through the streets of St. John's .

It is estimated that four to five thousand Portuguese Fishermen carried the Fatima statues through the streets of St. John’s .

One of the highlights of the 100th Anniversary celebrations of the Basilica – Cathedral of St. John he Baptist in St. John’s in 1955 was a parade of four – five thousand Portuguese fishermen from the “White Fleet” who marched through the city of St. John’s on  May 27, 1955.

The fishermen walked in procession from the waterfront to the Basilica –Cathedral and presented a gift in the form of Our Lady of Fatima, comprising a group of nine statues, of poly chromed and gilt plaster.

The statues were presented to Archbishop Patrick J. Skinner of St. John’s, by Reverend Father J. A. Rosa, chaplain of the Portuguese fleet, on behalf of the officers and crews of the fleet, and the people of Portugal.   The grotto  where the statues were placed is located under the west gallery in the Basilica Cathedral.

Only two other pieces of public art celebrate the presence of the Portuguese in Newfoundlandand  and Labrador.

The statue of  Gaspar Corte-Real Portuguese navigator – he reached Terra Nova (Newfoundland)  in the 15th century. This statue was unveiled on May 1965 in front of Confederation Building in St. John’s.  It was a gift from from the Portuguese Fisheries Organization as an expression of gratitude on behalf of the Portuguese Grand Banks fishermen for the friendly hospitality always extended to them by the people of Terra Nova.

The most recent installation of public art to celebrate the history of the Portuguese in Newfoundlandare the series of murals located on Duckworth Street.  (near the site of the  Sheraton Hotel) The murals depict scenes from towns in Portugal.

Another memorial to the Portuguese fishermen that is under discussion is the unmarked grave of White Fleet Fisherman, Dionisiv Esteves. He died during the 1966 fishing campaign while unloading his daily catch of codfish. He was crushed between his swamped dory and the steel hull of the fishing vessel. His grave site, which was only recently discovered, has come to symbolize all those Portuguese fishermen who lost their lives fishing in Newfoundland waters.

Local St. John’s businessman and author, Jean Pierre Andrieux is spearheading a financial campaign to raise funds to erect a memorial at the grave site of Esteves that would also serve to remember all Portuguese fishermen who lost their lives fishing in Newfoundland waters.

For further information contact Jean Pierre Andrieux @ jpa@spmtours.com or 753-7277

Recommended Reading: Port O’ Call, Memories of the Portuguese White Fleet in St. John’s, Newfoundland, by Priscilla Doel (Institute of Social and Economic Research, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John’s, 1992).

Recommended Website:  Watch and listen as  the Portuguese carry the Fatima Statues to the Basilica Cathedral.   http://www.museevirtuel-virtualmuseum.ca/sgc-cms/expositions-exhibitions/basilique-basilica/assets/year_of_joy.html