Holy rosary

Cathedral of the Holy Rosary: ​​an architectural and spiritual gem – BC Catholic

Unlike the monolithic simplicity of downtown skyscrapers, the Cathedral of the Holy Rosary rises like an ever-aspiring upward movement, a sign of transcendence in an urban world.

From the geometric perfection of its Gothic rose window to its two towers of unequal height – reminiscent of the towers of a city gate – the cathedral is a colorful composition that makes it a unique treasure.

Many are unaware that the Cathedral of the Holy Rosary is loosely modeled on the famous Chartres Cathedral in France, a 13th-century cathedral defined as the “highlight” of the French Gothic style.

The architects of Gothic churches have from the beginning been motivated by a perceived relationship between the finished church and the heavenly city, always stirred by the prospect of bringing heaven down to earth.

The finished product provides a pleasure close to religious experience. The visitor is moved by the feeling that there is another dimension of life – call it God or Eternity.

When souls receive the intelligence of faith, God speaks to them through all creation, and the universe becomes for them a living testimony that the finger of God continually traces before their eyes. This includes the architecture of the church. Cathedrals convey many important messages.

Art historians appreciate the harmony and similarities between French Gothic and Canadian Gothic Revival churches, drawing parallels between the two compositions, the original and the more modern reproduction.

The history of the Holy Rosary began in 1885 when the Vicar Apostolic of British Columbia, Bishop Louis d’Herbomez, OMI, appointed Father Patrick Fay to take care of the local Catholics.

The priest had been chaplain of the Canadian Pacific Railway and was to minister in the two establishments in downtown Granville: Gastown and Hastings.

The first mass was celebrated by Father Fay that same year on October 7, feast of the Most Holy Rosary. The first liturgies took place in rented rooms.

The following year, there were approximately 70 families registered in the growing downtown community. From the start, the need was recognized to build a permanent church worthy of the name.

Choosing the best location for the new construction, the story was passed down that Father Fay looked south from the Coal Harbor waterfront, along the slopes of the uncut trees of downtown Vancouver, and pointed to the tallest tree. Land was acquired there and the first church was built in 1889.

The same wooden church, built on the site of the current presbytery, was then enlarged and a bell tower was built. However, the community was growing. In 1898 ambitious plans were unveiled for the present church.

Pastor Father JM McGuckin, OMI, dreamed of a large Gothic stone church in the heart of the city. Originally, the church was intended to be a parish church, not yet a cathedral.

On July 16, 1899, the foundation stone of the current church was laid in the midst of a festive liturgical celebration, attracting the attention of downtown residents and countless faithful.

In less than two years, the new church was completed, a proud achievement for the nascent city of Vancouver. It only took 491 days.

It was opened to the public on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, 1900 – during the holy year declared by Pope Leo XIII.

The new downtown structure was an excellent complement to the architectural drama of Canadian churches. It has been hailed by locals as the “finest piece of architecture” west of Toronto and north of San Francisco.

In 1916, the parish was elevated to cathedral status after the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Vancouver was elevated in 1908 from the former Diocese of New Westminster. In 1953 it was consecrated after full payment of the debt.

The Cathedral of the Holy Rosary is full of symbolism. It was made of local sandstone from Gabriola Island and built on local granite foundations, making it a true visible embodiment of the province of British Columbia.

Architects Julian & Williams designed the classic Gothic structure with the familiar cruciform imprint, narthex, nave, transepts and apsidal choir.

The dimensions are 161 feet long, 104 feet wide at the transept, 62 feet across the nave, 62 feet from floor to ceiling, and 217 feet high to the top of the largest steeple. It includes 21 prominent windows with pictorial displays.

The interior has solid Norman columns finished with the polished red scagliola technique that support a magnificent Gothic tunnel vault. Non-structural decorative ribs decorate the arch with simple moldings accentuating the intermediate ribs.

Music is provided by two organs. The one in the choir gallery has 2,899 pipes and is the oldest “romantic-style” organ in the province, dating from 1900. There is also a choir organ near the high altar, strategically placed to accompany it. a school.

The cathedral is famous for its hand-ringing bells in the North East Tower bell room every Sunday morning from 10:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. (after 9:30 a.m. Mass and before 11:00 a.m. High Mass).

Holy Rosary Cathedral has the only ringing bells set for the ringing of change in Vancouver. They are rung by a dedicated team of ringers, the Vancouver Society of Change Ringers. This style is known as the English Change Ringtone, the art of ringing a set of bells tuned in a controlled manner to produce charming sequences of cheerful ringing tones.

Bells 1 through 5 were cast in 1906 in Bristol, England, while bells 6 through 8 were cast in 1900 in Annecy le Vieux, Savoy, France. Eight bells were made to complete a full octave when ringing, a rare example of hanging bell bells in the English style in North America.

As with the west towers of Chartres Cathedral, the towers of the Holy Rosary are of unequal height, intended to recall the two natures of Christ – the higher tower signifying the divine nature of Christ and the shorter one signifying human nature. of Christ, while both are united in one person of Christ.

The current arrangement of the sanctuary features three beautiful oak altarpieces with a carved altarpiece decorated with richly detailed gilded foliage, installed in a 1980s renovation before Pope Saint John Paul II’s September 1984 pastoral visit.

This includes a wood cathedra (episcopal throne) made by a local Czech craftsman in his workshop in Mission and donated by members of the Order of Malta. Pope Saint John Paul was the first to use the chair during his official visit.

It was the first time that a Roman pontiff had set foot in the city of Vancouver. The Pope spent the night in the presbytery of the cathedral, on the second floor, in a room specially divided into two rooms to include a private chapel.

As with most heritage buildings, the maintenance and restoration of the cathedral is an ongoing concern and largely depends on the stewardship and generous support of parishioners and friends.

Major structural work has never been carried out on the building. The projected seismic improvements alone will have a huge financial cost. Work needs to be done to ensure that this priceless treasure will be there for generations to come.

Donations to preserve, protect and restore the historic Cathedral of the Holy Rosary can be made through the Donate button on the Cathedral’s website: (http://www.holyrosarycathedral.org/cathedral-renovation/).

Future plans will also include interior decoration, possibly even neo-Gothic stencil work in colorful azure tones on the interior walls, continuing the pattern of vertical quatrefoil flower stencil bands already seen in the current chancel, near the l ‘altar.

In the stress of downtown life, in the chaos of everyday life and work, in the midst of the noisy demands of the ego and the flesh, the Cathedral of the Holy Rosary invites all to wait on God .

The cathedral is a permanent stone structure that belongs to always rather than now. It is for time travelers, where eternity is a true habitat. It points to the sky, sending an important message: it is in vain that people seek in themselves the remedy for all their miseries.

To seek God, writes Pascal, is to find him. He’s sure to come. His presence falls like a comforting shadow, and then we are at peace. This shadow is the downtown cathedral.

JP Sonnen is a Tour Operator and History Specialist at Vancouver-based Orbis Catholicus Travel.