Tag Archives: basilica

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 Archival Collection: What do we have in the ‘Rooms Archives’ on this subject? The Rooms has hundreds of photographs of icebergs. Type “iceberg” in the search bar here: http://gencat1.eloquent-systems.com/webcat/request/DoMenuRequest?SystemName=The+Rooms+Public&UserName=wa+public&Password=&TemplateProcessID=6000_3355&bCachable=1&MenuName=The+Rooms+Archives

Recommended Reading:   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.

The ruins of St. John’s watered with tears: The Great Fire

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 Townshend) 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.

One of the Presentation Sisters  who stood witness as her convent and school (located on Long’s Hill)  burnt wrote:

“the ruins of our convent  (and St. John’s) were well watered with their tears.”

In the days following the fire the traditional resilience of Newfoundlanders  was well displayed. One of those present described the scene:

“The very next morning some of the citizens were at work excavating among the ruins of their dwellings  and preparing to erect temporary sheds, thousands were ruined, but everyone there was hopeful, determined that St. John’s would rise again …”

Recommended Archival Collection: What do we have in the ‘Rooms Archives’ on this subject? Type  Fire   in the search bar here: http://gencat1.eloquent-systems.com/webcat/request/DoMenuRequest?SystemName=The+Rooms+Public&UserName=wa+public&Password=&TemplateProcessID=6000_3355&bCachable=1&MenuName=The+Rooms+Archives

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 in St. John’s

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 Archival Collection: What do we have in the ‘Rooms Archives’ on this subject? Type  “Basilica”  in the search bar here: http://gencat1.eloquent-systems.com/webcat/request/DoMenuRequest?SystemName=The+Rooms+Public&UserName=wa+public&Password=&TemplateProcessID=6000_3355&bCachable=1&MenuName=The+Rooms+Archives

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 the 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.

MiguelCorte Real Andrade visted the site of his ancestor last week.

MiguelCorte Real Andrade visted the site of his ancestor 2015.

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.

Another 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.

 

Portuguese Memorial, Mount Carmel Cemetery, St. John's.

Portuguese Memorial, Mount Carmel Cemetery, St. John’s.

The most recent memorial to the Portuguese fishermen is the unmarked grave of White Fleet Fisherman, Dionisio 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 has come to symbolize all those Portuguese fishermen who lost their lives fishing in Newfoundland waters. The memorial is located in Mount Carmel Roman Catholic Cemetery, St. John’s.

Recommended Archival Collection: What do we have in the ‘Rooms Archives’  on the Portuguese in Newfoundland. Type Portuguese in the search bar here: http://gencat1.eloquent-systems.com/webcat/request/DoMenuRequest?SystemName=The+Rooms+Public&UserName=wa+public&Password=&TemplateProcessID=6000_3355&bCachable=1&MenuName=The+Rooms+Archives

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, on May 27, 1955.    http://www.museevirtuel-virtualmuseum.ca/sgc-cms/expositions-exhibitions/basilique-basilica/assets/year_of_joy.html

Lived for his work after death of wife and child

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

December 16, 1852 

Photo Credit: Front facade, O’Dwyer Block, Water Street, St. John’s.

On December 16, 1852 the prominent Waterford, Ireland born merchant Richard O’Dwyer who had established himself as one of the more wealthy businessmen in St. John’s was in mourning over the loss of his infant daughter Mary Wilhelmina. The infant child was baptized immediately after birth with Reverend Kyran Walsh serving as both godfather and priest at the baptism.

The loss of his daughter was compounded five days later on December 21 by the death of his young wife Mary Frances McKenna O’Dwyer.

It is believed that the young mother (Mary Frances, age 26) and infant child (Mary Wilhelmina) are both buried in the Roman Catholic Cathedral (now Basilica) that was still under construction at the time of their deaths.

There were in the 1850’s few public memorials in St. John’s but being a wealthy citizen of the town Richard O’Dwyer had the financial resources  to commission a memorial to celebrate the life of his wife and child. On the west wall in the Basilica Cathedral is a memorial that O’Dwyer commissioned that depicts an angel carrying a young mother and child to heaven.

O’Dwyer Legacy

With the death of his wife and child all of Richard O’Dwyer’s energy was directed to his business interests.  He is also responsible for at least three significant architectural contributions to the town (now city) of St. John’s.

He was responsible for the construction of the  O’Dwyer Block of Buildings at (295-301 Water Street, St. John’s. Built in the mid-nineteenth century, the stone and mortar O’Dwyer Block was one of St. John’s earliest major merchant buildings, not made of wood. The structure is a classical commercial block constructed after the St. John’s fire of 1846.  Richard O’Dwyer built the block of buildings for his offices and retail stores with sufficient space to accommodate other merchants.

O’Dwyer also built the nearby Murray Premises as a warehouse storage area.

He is also credited for building The Thompson Building  at (303-305 Water Street) For decades, the Thompson family owned the building and ran their family jewellery store business there until it closed in the mid-1990s. A store specializing in Newfoundland merchandise and the offices of the popular Newfoundland magazine The Downhomer, now operates in the building.

Recommended Archives: Search the online database for descriptions of our archival records and to view thousands of digital photographs. – See more at: https://www.therooms.ca/collections-research/our-collections

Recommended Reading:  Robert Mellin: A City of Towns: Alternatives for the Planning and Design of Housing in St. John’s, Newfoundland (CMHC Canadian Housing Information Centre, 1995: Ca1 MH 95C37), Residential Heritage Conservation in St. John’s (Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador, 2005.

Kneeling and prayers in the streets

Archival Moment

2 November

Photo Credit: The Basilica Cathedral bells, St. John’s, NL

The parishioners of the Roman Catholic Cathedral (now Basilica) in St. John’s were informed  at the end of every Sunday mass  in  November of 1902 that

“During the month of November the “De profundis bell” will be tolled at nine o’clock every evening for the Holy Souls.  All people who at the sound of the bell shall recite, on their knees (if possible) the Psalm De profundis with the verses and responses.

The De Profundis is found in scripture – Psalm 130.

Upon hearing the sound of the church bell wherever Catholics were at 9:00 p.m. they would fall to their knees and recite Psalm 130.

The Roman Catholics in the town of St. John’s  were also informed that:

“Those who do not know the De profundis  may say instead an Our Father  and Hail Mary  for the repose of  the faithful departed.”  (Source: Basilica Cathedral Publication Book, October 26, 1902.

And there was no escaping the toll of the Cathedral (now Basilica) bells. It is said that the bells could be heard as far away as Torbay.

The De profundis  bell was not the only one that was sounded.

A beautiful and pious custom which prevailed in many countries was the “passing bell,” which was rung slowly when a death was imminent in the parish. When the sick person was near his end the solemn tones of the bell reminded the faithful of their Christian duty of praying for his happy death and for his eternal repose; and after his spirit had departed, the bell tolled out his age — one short stroke for each year.

A bell that continues to be sounded in St. John’s  is the Angelus Bell.  The Angelus, consists essentially in the reciting of certain prayers at the sound of a bell at fixed hours. At the Basilica Cathedral the angelus bell is struck at noon each day.

By tradition, the Catholic Church dedicates each month of the year to certain devotion. In November, it is the Holy Souls in Purgatory, described in Catholic theology asthose faithful Christians who have died and gone before us.” Praying for the dead, especially for those we have known, is a requirement of Christian charity.

New Word:  De profundis    (Latin) “out of the depths of misery or dejection” (from the first words of Psalm 130

Recommended Archival Collection: Search the online database at The Rooms for archival records and to view thousands of digital photographs. Search the Archives: https://www.therooms.ca/collections-research/our-collections

Recommended Song: Psalm 130

The Pope in Newfoundland

Photo Credit: Pope John Paul II holding Monica Walsh daughter Des Walsh and Eleanor Dawson. In the background is their son Brendan Walsh. Papal Mass, Pleasantville, St. John’s, NL, September 12, 1984.

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

September 12, 1984

On September 12, 1984, Pope John Paul II made a “pastoral visitation” to Newfoundland and Labrador, a milestone in the history of Catholicism in the province. The Pope came to help celebrate the 200th anniversary (1784-1984) of the establishment of the Catholic Church in Newfoundland.

While in the province he maintained a hectic schedule.  His itinerary included: The Blessing of the Fishing Fleet at Flatrock; Meeting with the Handicapped at Memorial Stadium, St. John’s;  Celebration of Mass at  Pleasantville,  near Quidi Vidi Lake; Meeting with Youth at Memorial University of  Newfoundland and a Meeting with Catholic Educators  at the Basilica Cathedral.

John Paul II died on April 2, 2005, at the age of 84, after leading the world’s 1 billion Catholics for 26 years.

He is remembered as a “champion of human freedom,” a “tireless advocate of peace” and a man with a “wonderful sense of humor” who was easy to talk to. (The latter can be attested by the young men who served the mass at Pleasantville – breaking with protocol – the Pope broke away from the formal procession to the altar to the chagrin of security to greet those who were serving the mass. (We chatted for a very short time!)

On May 1, 2011 Pope Benedict XVI beatified the late Pope John Paul II. Beatification means that a person’s life has displayed certain qualities that are worthy of imitation by other Christians. He was canonized a saint in the church on April 24, 2014. (I can now say that I spoke and shook hands with a saint!)

Recommended Archival Collection: To read the addresses and homilies given by the Pope go to:   http://www.cccb.ca/site/Files/Pope_speeches_1984.html 

Search the Rooms online database for descriptions of our archival records and to view thousands of digital photographs. Click the image to begin your search. https://www.therooms.ca/collections-research/our-collections

Recommended Publication: Upon this Rock the Story of the Roman Catholic Church in Newfoundland and Labrador, Paul O’Neill, Breakwater Books (1984)