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The historic ruins of St. Raphael’s Roman Catholic Church

August 2019

St. Raphael’s Roman Catholic Church, a castle-like limestone church, has stood tall in rolling hills of Glengarry, Ontario, for 200 years. Built by Scottish immigrants between 1815 and 1821, the massive stone walls were once capped by a large timber roof that allowed it to be without interior columns, providing an unobstructed view for parishioners.

St Raphael’s was one of the earliest Roman Catholic churches to be built in what was then known as Upper Canada.

A fire in 1970 destroyed the roof, including the bell tower, and the interior, but the exterior walls were so sturdy, they survived the fire but in a weakened state. Stabilization measures were undertaken in 1973, 1986 and 1999.

One of the church’s original bells, cracked during the fire, is situated on a stone pedestal inside the ruins.

The church was declared a national historic site in 1999 and is now a popular tourist attraction, run by the Friends of the Ruins of St. Raphael. Cultural events and even the occasional church service are held within the walls.

Adjacent to the ruins is St. Raphael’s Cemetery, consecrated in 1801.

Sources: https://www.saintraphaelsruins.com, https://www.historicplaces.ca/en/rep-reg/place-lieu.aspx?id=14123

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

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