St. Raphael’s Ruins
In 1970 a fire consumed the church of St. Raphael’s, one of the earliest Roman Catholic churches in English-speaking Canada. Fortunately the outer walls were spared and today its impressive scale and fine masonry work continue to attract the tourists to the site. The Ruins were declared a National Historic Site in 1999.
St Raphael’s is situated in the former Charlottenburgh Township, now South Glengarry on the seventh concession back from the St Lawrence River. Commenced by Alexander Macdonell, vicar general and future Roman Catholic Bishop of Upper Canada, this large stone church served a congregation of Gaelic-speaking Catholic Highlanders who had settled in the easternmost county of Upper Canada in 1786. For a time St Raphael’s function as the administrative centre of the Roman Catholic Church in Upper Canada and today is recognized as the founding church for the Anglophone Catholics of the province.
The church was constructed during a period when the province was still under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Quebec, a state of affairs which continued until 1826, when the dioceses was divided and Macdonell became the first Bishop of Kingston (Upper Canada). Evidence of this transitional period in Church history is preserved by Macdonell’s plan for St Raphael’s, which resembles the cruciform design developed by Abbe Pierre Conefroy and popular in Lower Canada from 1812 to 1830.
Throughout the early 19th century, St Raphael’s constituted the largest parish of Roman Catholics in the colony. Its significance was reflected not only in the size of the church but also in the educational buildings that were associated with it. These included a large stone presbytery which Macdonell built for his own use in 1808 and which served from 1817 as a boys’ school; a single story building which once housed the former College of Iona, a seminary established by Macdonell to train young men for the priesthood; and a school building for girls of the parish (since demolished). These were among the first Roman Catholic educational institutions in the province. Macdonell’s account book indicates that payment for the first load of cut stone was made through the building contractor and master mason, Archibald Fraser, in the spring of 1816.
- Location: 19998 County Rd 18, Williamstown, ON K0C 2J0
- Time: 09:00 to 16:00
- Lunch and snacks are included
- Required Equipment:
- Safety glasses
- Safety boots (if you have them)
- Gloves (don’t bring expensive gloves they get shredded just as quickly as the cheap ones)
- Appropriate clothing – We work in all weather conditions
Registration and Waiver:
Please complete the and return
- Cheque or via paypal
- Make cheque payable to: Dry Stone Walling Association of Canada
- Send completed forms to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Or mail forms (and cheque) to:
- Bill Jeffers c/o Dry Stone Canada
- 24 Sword St.
- Toronto, On.
- M5A 3N2