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Faith

St. Mary's century

Downtown landmark celebrates 100 years as a cathedral

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 7/3/2015 (840 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Among its many wonderful places of worship, Winnipeg is fortunate to have three marvellous Catholic cathedrals.

One of these is a beautiful, precious haven in downtown Winnipeg — St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Cathedral.

St. Mary's Roman Catholic Cathedral has been a cathedral for 100 years, but its history in Winnipeg goes all the way back to 1869.

CHERYL GIRARD

St. Mary's Roman Catholic Cathedral has been a cathedral for 100 years, but its history in Winnipeg goes all the way back to 1869.

A statue of Mary stands outside St. Mary's Roman Catholic Cathedral, amid the bustle of Winnipeg's downtown. 



Mary outside the cathedral

CHERYL GIRARD PHOTO

A statue of Mary stands outside St. Mary's Roman Catholic Cathedral, amid the bustle of Winnipeg's downtown. Mary outside the cathedral

 

"Winnipeg is unusual in that for a city this size, it has three dioceses," says Don Schroeder, a parishioner and occasional tour guide.

A reflection of its rich heritage, Winnipeg is home to St. Mary’s, built to serve primarily English-speaking Catholics, St. Boniface Cathedral, serving many French-speaking Catholics, and the Ukrainian Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral of Sts. Vladimir and Olga, home to many Ukrainian Catholics.

A beautifully serene outdoor statue of Mary looks down on the busy avenue named for the cathedral, contrasting markedly with the bustle of downtown traffic and the towering new buildings surrounding it. The cathedral was "built over a period of years," says Schroeder. "And it wasn’t always a cathedral."

Begun in 1880, it was described in the Free Press then as handsome and magnificent. The architect was noted to be Balston C. Kenway from England. In 1896, another English architect, Samuel Cooper, redesigned and enlarged the church, adding its distinctive towers, a new vestibule, facade and side chapels.

Following the creation of the Archdiocese of Winnipeg in 1915, St. Mary’s was designated a cathedral. "We’re celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Archdiocese of Winnipeg in 2015," says Schroeder.

Scheduled events, he said, include a mass in the MTS Centre on May 3.

In the early 1950s a major project was undertaken with the installation of intensely colourful stained-glass windows designed by Robert E. Rambusch of New York City.

At age 91, he still designs glass, he says over the phone from New York, and has his own company, E. Rambusch Associates, where he is a consultant for designs of liturgical spaces.

Rambusch said he believes the archbishop at the time "wrote and approved the iconography and then transferred it onto me to make it visual." He said the windows were made in Canada by Luxfer Studios.

"I’m very pro-Canadian," says the amiable artist who feels strongly about recognizing Canadian talent.

"I think of that wonderful windy corner in Winnipeg (Portage and Main) and I can say I’ve been knocked down in Winnipeg," he chuckles. "I feel like a native son."

The glass in St. Mary’s fills much of the elegant cathedral with its many striking columns and archways. "Theologically, the windows tell the story of God and his church in narrative scenes and symbols," wrote Rambusch in 1951.

Beautifully complex, vivid and intense, the glass depicts scenes from the Old and New Testaments.

"We are hoping to have some kind of indoor lighting that illuminates the windows so that they can be seen from the outside," says Schroeder of a possible future project. Some glass in the sanctuary is thought to be original, and circular rose windows popular in many Romanesque churches also fill the nave.

Anyone wishing to make an appointment to tour the cathedral is invited to call the office at 204-947-0294.

 

If you know of a place of worship or artist you’d like to see featured here, contact girard.cheryl@gmail.com.

Read more by Cheryl Girard.

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History

Updated on Saturday, March 7, 2015 at 4:03 PM CST: Alters date of even scheduled for May.

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