Saint-Pierre Catholic Church in Cheticamp – Historical Site
Also Called: St Peters Church
L’église catholique Saint-Pierre
When travellers head along the Cabot Trail on there way to the Cape Breton Highlands National Park (by way of Cheticamp), it is pretty hard not to notice a massive church in the landscape ahead even from as far back as Terre Noire, almost 15km outside of the village of Cheticamp.
The construction of this massive task was undertaken by many volunteers in the community of Cheticamp and the surrounding area back in the late 1800’s, which required many local hands for labour and some expert engineering techniques.
It all started back in 1875when Fr. Pierre Fiset was assigned to the Cheticamp area (Le Buttereau area back then) by the Catholic Church and he quickly realized that the area was in great need of a larger church building and that it should be located in the newly opened harbour area (where Cheticamp is today) vs where it was located in the Le Buttereau area. So in 1880, Fr. Pierre Fiset imposed an annual levy to the parishioners in order to raise enough money for the construction of a new church. Over the next 13years, the money was raised by annual donations raised by the congregation.
In order to engineer such a large project, the church committee had to enlisted the expertise of an architect from Quebec City by the name of David Ouellet. As well, Joseph-Hubert Morin, a well known contractor
from Trois-Pistoles and many other expert tradesmen from Quebec (including Jean Belzile et Fils) were brought into the area to worked on the massive church and bring it to its final completion in 1893.
The architecture inside the church was a unique design for its time and the design Ouellet used had many features that are still in place today. The barrel-vaulted nave with its two aisles and upper gallery leads the eye straight towards the main altar in the eastern apse. The spectacular vaulted plaster ceilings were finally completed in 1900 with gold leaf and many hundreds of hours of artisans work. The ornate alter at the front of the church was constructed in 1912 and is without a doubt an exceptional highlight of the overall design.
When the building of the church started, the existing stones from the old church were reused to build the new church. As well, many new stones were cut and removed from the north east corner of the Cheticamp Island, across from the new location. In order to get the heavy stones to the location by horsepower, the builders waited until the Cheticamp harbour froze over and dragged the massive stones across the ice over to the new building site. This required a large number of dedicated volunteers to do this work as they had to move a huge number of stones across the harbour ice while it was thick enough to hold the weight of these large stones.
Today the Saint Pierre Catholic Church still stands proud as the tallest building and one of the largest buildings in Cheticamp. Tourists and visitors are welcome to visit the building throughout the summer and is one of the most visited sites in the area. To find out more on the historical background of the Saint Pierre Catholic Church we suggest you go to https://www.historicplaces.ca/en/rep-reg/place-lieu.aspx?id=8821