Tour Guide Notes

The Church began as a Mission in 1850 and then as a Parish in 1864. Originally, it was a wooden church located on the main street sized for ~300 parishioners. This magnificent church we are in now has a whole story behind it, beginning in Ireland.

The Irish started coming into Canada in 1818. It became a became a flood through the 1830’s and 40’s, giving the rural Ottawa Valley a uniquely large percentage of people of Irish origin – in fact, the highest in the world outside Ireland itself.

The roots for this church starts with young Irish boy – Domenic Lavin, born 4 Aug 1842 to Honora & Rhomas Lavin in Riverston, county Sligo Ireland. The family, consisting of his parents, uncle and 2 brothers, emigrated to Canada in 1847 as the potato crops were failing, As it was called “The Great Potato Famine” and specifically in 1847 as “black 47”. During the voyage, Domenic lost his father and his uncle and they were buried at sea. This was most likely from cholera.

Shortly after arriving at the internment centre just east of Quebec city on the island of Grosse Isle, his 2 brothers died – and they were buried on the island, alongside with thousands of others. This left just Domenic and his mother. Upon arriving in Quebec city, his mother entrusted him to the care of a young Irish priest, to be educated and to become a priest.

At age 19 he entered seminary in Montreal and was ordained in 1865. He was assigned the role of assistant priest for Alumette Island. He quickly showed skills of being a good organizer, administrator, scholar and teacher. After 16 months he was re-assigned as the parish priest in Pakenham – Nov 1866. When he arrived he spoke 4 languages English, French, Gaelic, and Algonquin.

From his arrival he set about to care for the parishioners and the church with energy and zeal. Spiritually and materially he was untiring in his efforts. e.g. Every year he organized wagon loads of produce to be sent to the orphanages in Ottawa.

As his flock grew, in 1885 he started a fund to build a new church and purchased the lots for the church (the entire block). He had this zeal to build a magnificent edifice to God.

Once enough money was raised to build the new church he employed architects Roy & Gauthier in Montreal. They designed hundreds of churches throughout Quebec. While Europe was building churches in the Gothic style with wide windows terminated in a peak, Roy & Gauthier continued in the Classic Or Romanesque style, with narrow windows and a rounded top. In fact the style of their churches was very common in Quebec, but it was very rare in Ontario.

These architects were known to create a unique architectural component for each Church – such as twisting a turret. Fr Lavin came up with the idea to turn the entire tower 45 deg. so that the church tower would be presented as a prow of a ship with Christ as the figurehead – leading his people to Salvation. The unique aspect of the twisted tower is not seen anywhere else.

If you look outside, you will see the figure of the Sacred Heart. It is made of cast iron, from France, and it weighs 1/2 ton, covered in gold leaf, located 45’ up and stands 8’ tall.

moved original bell from 1870 – West Troy NY 720 lb

Classical / Romanesque vs Gothic (rounded windows, narrow, wall decoration important)

We are standing in the tower right now and you will notice doors: 2 side & 1 large central doors. This very traditional layout is designed so thath the faithful enter and exit through the side doors, while the center doors were reserved for the bishop.

We are now going to move into the Nave of the church. The layout of the church is very traditional with the Nave forming the upright portion of the cross with two transcepts for the arms and the head being the sacristy.

The Nave is structured a ppp9ohs 3 bays.
Decoration 1901, after the building settled: TX Renaud, Meloche 3 altars, pulpit

TX only church with stencilled steps and most perfect example of TX

3 altars 20 degrees Transepts: trompe l’eau / faux marble / sloped floor / ceiling wood

I The suffering and death of Christ
Above the window on the arch nearest the ceiling is painted a Crown of Thorns, the pincers and the hammer of the Crucifixion along with the reed with which Jesus was struck by those mocking Him.

1. motif is the crown of thorns surrounding a Sacred Heart from which issue flames of Divine Love. The spear, here symbolizing human sin, pierces the heart
2. …
3. spear and four arrows
4. hammer and nails of the crucifixion with a set of pincers to remove the nails, emblematic of the death of Christ.
5. Maltese cross, symbol of Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, with the wand bearing a sponge with which Jesus was offered vinegar to drink
6. The cup and dice with which the Roman soldiers gambled for Jesus’ seamless garment
7. ladder, a rope and spears; a ladder for raising the Victim on the cross, a rope to tie Him there and a spear to pierce His side.
8. medallion is one showing the Crown of Thorns and the three nails with which Jesus was nailed to the cross.

Above the window, the painted motif is of the Cross supporting a Sacred Heart from which issue flames of Divine Love. The spear, here symbolizing human sin, pierces the heart.
1. top arch of the window can be seen to portray the veil of Veronica with the suffering face of Jesus crowned with thorns.
2. …
3. left medallion shows His garment, (here a priestly robe) and the dice that were cast for that garment.
4. medallion shows the Cross and Crown of Thorns.
5. repeated on the left the instruments of Christ’s suffering
6. thirty pieces of silver for which He was betrayed
7. the pillar at which Jesus was scourged, with its irons and rope, the reed sceptre and a palm frond.
8. Crown of Thorns, with the three nails on the right. On the left is the scourge; behind the Crown are crossed the spear and the hyssop stick with its sponge.

II Mary: circular medallions all portray various attributes of Mary, most drawn from the Loreto Litany.

1. Very elaborate emblem in top arch-white scroll AVE MARIA above a branch with 7 golden berries / 7 golden beads cross. Virgin as Queen of the Rosary and an inspiration of the scapular
2. …
3. we see 3 lilies on a golden stem. These can be interpreted as Mary’s virtues of purity, devotion and love, but the more usual interpretation is that the lilies stand for Mary, her mother St. Anne and her cousin Elizabeth.
4. medallion R 7 stars 5pt new dispensation “Age Redemption by Jesus” 6 stars’ form Star of David 1st/Old Testament. They surround the bigger star, which represents Mary as Stella Maris, Star of the Sea.
5. the tower referring to Mary’s character as Tower of David
6. a lily springing from a crescent moon. The lily – purity, the crescent moon, a new beginning
7. stylized AM for Ave Maria “Hail! Mary!” in Latin.
8. Noah’s Ark, symbolic of the Virgin bearing the salvation of mankind


1. In top arch Immaculate Heart of Mary emits flames of Divine Love, wrapped in roses, crowned lilies and pierced the dagger of sorrows
2. …
3. left, a ship guided towards an island by 5pt star. Stella Maris, “Star of the Sea”, guide of lost souls
4. Finally, on the top right, the two flowers of Mary entwine, the rose and the lily
5. fountain, symbolizing Mary as Fountain of Consolation for sinners and sufferers
6. AM for Ave Maria and also for Alma Mater, “Our Mother”
7. Golden roses surround the letters emblematic of Mary’s attributes as Mystical Rose of the Faith
8. Star of David, proof of her royal lineage

III Redemption the triumph of Christ over death

1. In the top arch, hands elevate the Host and give a blessing above a chalice; the sacrament triumphs.
2. …
3. royal crown framed by branches of laurel. This symbolizes royalty and victory. Since Jesus was of David’s line, He was royal, and His Resurrection was our victory over death.
4. bunch of grapes, symbol of the sacrament
5. 2nd level, the letters IHS are the Greek letters for JES, meaning Jesus
6. cross bearing the letters INRI meaning Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. Upon the cross hangs an anchor, symbol of faith.
7. left bears the picture of the Lamb of God triumphant. The banner “labarum”, the flag of triumphant Christendom, from its first use by Constantine the Great (325 AD)
8. right is the Mystical Rose indicating the origins of the Redeemer in Mary

1. In the top arch, the Lamb of God, emanating rays of glory, lies on the Old Testament which is closed in symbol of fulfillment. 7 seals of the Revelation hang from the book.
2. …
3. a chalice on the left
4. a sheaf of wheat on the right, balancing the bunch of grapes below.
5. left hand circle portrays a bunch of grapes, emblematic of the wine of the sacrament
6. right, an elaborate arrangement features a chalice floating on the clouds. It stands on a closed book over which a priestly stole is draped; above it the Host, marked with a cross, radiates rays of light. This all symbolizes divine nature of the sacrament as distributed by the priesthood, fulfilling scripture.
7. chalice filled w/ grapes standing on ear of wheat lying on a closed book. represents the bread and wine, the two elements of the Blessed Sacrament, whose institution fulfills the promise of the Old Testament.
8. chalice with a cover and 2 candles represents the sacrament as final consolation of the dying, for this is how the sacrament appears at the Last Rites

North Transept RIGHT
1. Holy Spirit as a dove, flanked by the Alpha and Omega which represents Jesus as the beginning and the end of creation. The scroll beneath bears the word Bethlehem.
2. …
3. square cross bearing the monogram IHS for Jesus decorates a shield crowned w/thorns & ET REDIMISIT MUNDUM,
“And He has redeemed the world”.
4. shield is supported by a tree and crowned by a laurel wreath of victory. The shield bears the motto JOSEPH VIA MARIA, “Joseph, the way to Mary”.
5. ram caught in the thorn bush which Abraham sacrificed in place of Isaac. This relates both to Joseph as Jesus’ earthly father and to Jesus’ sacrifice as the Lamb of God.
6. scroll shows cock crowing above by a censer smoking. Cock represents a calling to a new awakening; censer is symbol of divinity.
7. the pelican and her young, a figure representing Christ’s sacrifice
8. right, a beehive is backed by an axe, a square, a ruler, a chain, and a candle crossed behind. There is a cross above, and a scroll below reading ORATIO LABOR, “To work is to pray”. The L-R where medieval artisans portrayed themselves in European cathedrals. St. Joseph’s, patron.

North Transept LEFT
1. Holy Spirit as the right window, except the scroll bears the name of Nazareth.
2. …
3. Blessed Virgin MARIA on golden shield. Shield circled by a rosary and bears a crown, these indicating Mary Queen of the Rosary. Finally, Mary’s symbols, 3 roses and 3 lilies, surround the shield
4. Incarnation XR monogram for Christ, surrounded by palm fronds indicative of royalty and triumph. The banner bears the words ET VERBUM CARNATUM EST, “And the Word was made Flesh”
5. cushion upon which lie a flower and a rod topped by a miniature hand which has two fingers raised. Rod of justice and the scroll above reads VIR JUSTUS, “The Just Man”, judgement by the Lord
6. Lamb of God triumphant, He bears the flag of Christian victory, the labarum. words QUI TOLLIT PECCATA MUNDI, “Who bears the sins of the world”.
7. 2 doves drinking from a fountain in golden bowl. The bowl has wings signifying divinity. The doves personify purity and gentleness, refers to Apocalypse where the Lamb leads the redeemed to fountains of waters of life
8. picture of a synagogue lectern bearing the Old testament with its 7 seals. The book is open at centre seal and the inscription EGO VIA VERITAS VITAQUE “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”