Christ Church Cathedral (Victoria, British Columbia)

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Coordinates: 48°25′20″N 123°21′33″W / 48.42222°N 123.35917°W / 48.42222; -123.35917

Christ Church Cathedral (Victoria, British Columbia)
Christ Church Cathedral (Victoria) - pano - hdr.jpg
Christ Church Cathedral
Location 930 Burdett Avenue
Victoria, British Columbia
V8V 3G8
Denomination Anglican Church of Canada
Deanery Tolmie
Diocese British Columbia
Province British Columbia and Yukon
Bishop(s) The Rt. Rev. Dr. Logan McMenamie
Dean The Very Rev. Margaret Ansley Tucker
Director of music Donald Hunt

Christ Church Cathedral in Victoria, British Columbia is the cathedral church of the Diocese of British Columbia of the Anglican Church of Canada.


The first Christ Church (1856–1869)[edit]

The Hudson's Bay Company hired Robert John Staines, graduate of Trinity College, Cambridge, to teach the children of Fort Victoria, and offered him a further stipend to take Holy Orders and serve as chaplain to the fort as well. He arrived at the fort with his wife Emma and servants in 1849, none too impressed with the rustic conditions at this remote trading post. For their part, the small fort community became increasingly dissatisfied with his teaching skills and manner, such that he was discharged in 1854. He in turn set off for London to grieve the Company's land policies at the Colonial Office on behalf of fellow settlers.

Staines had begun construction of a church building in 1853, and had held Anglican services in the messroom of Fort Victoria and aboard visiting ships pending its completion. The Company appointed Edward Cridge, a college friend of Staines, as his replacement. Cridge and his new wife Mary arrived via Cape Horn from England on April 1, 1855. The population of Victoria was then about 200. The company church was finally ready for use on August 31, 1856 and was initially known as the Victoria District Church, and later as Christ Church.

Beginning in 1858, Victoria was overrun with gold seekers on their way to the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush. Hundreds of makeshift structures went up and several years of intense growth ensued. On July 7, 1858, Cridge wrote to the Colonial and Continental Church Society requesting two missionary clergy to help. In due course two appeared who were posted to New Westminster and Langley.

What Cridge did not expect was that his request would come also to the attention of The Baroness Burdett-Coutts, whose response was to endow a new diocese for British Columbia. On January 12, 1859, Letters Patent were issued to create the Diocese of British Columbia, and on February 24, 1859, the Rev. George Hills was consecrated in Westminster Abbey as its first Bishop. After a summer of fundraising for the Columbia Mission Fund, Bishop Hills sailed for Victoria and arrived on January 6, 1860.

The new bishop had to negotiate a clear title to Christ Church with the Hudson's Bay Company before it could be consecrated. Cridge had been promised 100 acres (0.40 km2) as part compensation for his term as company chaplain, but in negotiation it was reduced to 30 acres (120,000 m2) and title was assigned to the trustees for Christ Church.

Baroness Burdett-Coutts had also sent along a prefabricated iron church with a capacity of 600, based on the bizarre assumption that lumber was scarce in Victoria. This was erected about half a mile north of Christ Church and was consecrated as the Church of St. John the Divine. Hills had to choose which of the two churches to make the cathedral. Christ Church had been built with a capacity of 400, but an apse and south aisle were added to it in 1862 and a north aisle in 1865. On December 7, 1865, opting for the better location of Christ Church, he made it into Christ Church Cathedral and appointed Cridge as its first Dean.

On the night of September 30, 1869, the cathedral burned to the ground. The communion vessels and organ were rescued and the vestry books survived. The parish used a vacant Presbyterian church for several years while they rebuilt.[1]

The second Christ Church (1872–1929)[edit]

The cornerstone for the new building was laid on May 20, 1872 by Lieutenant-Governor J.W. Trutch. It was to be another wooden structure as conditions were not ripe for a stone building. It was about 100 ft (30 m) by 50 ft (15 m) with a tower of 78 ft (24 m) Construction took a little over six months.

Schism of 1874[edit]

As a low churchman, Dean Cridge had little use for church hierarchy and authority; not for obedience to his bishop, and certainly not for formal liturgies. Things simmered privately between Cridge and Hills until evensong on December 5, 1872, the day of services for the consecration of the new cathedral, when guest preacher the Venerable Wm. S. Reece, Archdeacon of Vancouver (i.e. Vancouver Island), gave what Cridge interpreted as a rousing endorsement of ritualism. Rather than announcing the following hymn, Cridge hotly took issue with the homily, in breach of canon law which prohibited public disagreement among clergy. Bishop Hills then had to take official notice of the situation, trying first censure, the most lenient course. Cridge remained defiant. The citizens and newspapers of Victoria took sides.

Hills then tried Cridge in ecclesiastical court. The trial was held in the vacant Presbyterian church, was open to the public and received attentive press coverage. On September 22, 1874, Cridge was found guilty of 16 of 18 charges laid, and his licence was revoked. Cridge disregarded the revocation and demanded that the case be heard in "an unbiased secular court."

Hills then sought an injunction against Cridge in the Supreme Court of British Columbia sub nomine Bishop of Columbia v. Cridge. It fell to their mutual friend Supreme Court Chief Justice Matthew Baillie Begbie to adjudicate. He encouraged them to settle out of court. Cridge did apologise for his outburst at evensong, but would not recognise the authority of the Bishop. In his judgment of October 24, 1874, granting an injunction forbidding Cridge to act as a priest of the diocese, Chief Justice Begbie observed,

His [Bishop Hills'] reluctance to use his power may however, obviously be imputed to motives of the most christian forbearance … But if the defendant had been at once in December, 1872, excluded from the pulpit of Christ Church until due submission, I should not now have had the most painful duty of attending to this distressing case, and probably much correspondence of a most disagreeable nature would have been avoided.[2]

Begbie had been a member of the cathedral parish and was on the building committee for the new cathedral, but after rendering this verdict, he transferred his membership to St. John the Divine.

Much of the Cathedral's congregation, among them some of Victoria's major figures such as Sir James Douglas and Dr. J.S. Helmcken, met with Cridge a few days later and voted to form a new congregation, the Church of Our Lord, under the auspices of the Reformed Episcopal Church, which had recently broken from the Episcopal Church of the United States. Even so, the Columbia Mission Report was able to state that givings at Christ Church in 1875 were similar to those in 1871. Cridge's new congregation met at the vacant Presbyterian church until their building was completed at the end of 1875.[3]

The third Christ Church (1929–)[edit]

The west gallery houses a four-manual pipe organ built around a large rose window
Interior view facing west, toward organ gallery and rose window
Side aisle of Christ Church Cathedral, Victoria B.C

The wooden structure built in 1872 became inadequate for the size of the congregation. In 1891, through an international design competition, architect J.C.M. Keith of Victoria was commissioned to design a larger and more enduring edifice. He produced a design in 13th century gothic style, inspired by Durham Cathedral in England, with transepts and a great central lantern tower, of concrete and stone with brick vaulting. The congregation made a good start on a building fund, but it was not adequate to begin construction.

Bishop Charles Schofield, elected in 1916, had the judgement, tact, courage, perseverance and business sense to lead the project. He had recently overseen the rebuilding of Christ Church Cathedral, Fredericton, which was ignited by lightning in 1911 during his tenure there as Dean.

In 1919, a new Cathedral Buildings Campaign for $250 000 was authorized. Bishop Schofield had Memorial Hall built first; its cornerstone was laid on October 1, 1923. A service for breaking ground on the new Cathedral took place on May 20, 1926. The cornerstone was laid on September 9, 1926 by the Rt. Rev. and Rt. Hon. A.F. Winnington-Ingram, the Lord Bishop of London. Fortunately, Mr. Keith was still available to supervise construction.

Winston Churchill visited the site on September 9, 1929, and was quick to help when the superintendent asked him to lay a stone on the north tower.[4]

Funds were just sufficient to construct the nave, narthex and the lower portions of the northwest and southwest towers only. The east end of the nave was closed with a temporary wooden wall, and this much was consecrated on September 28, 1929. The contractors were The Parfitt Brothers, a firm of five brothers from England who had a construction yard in the Fernwood neighborhood of Victoria.[5]

The temporary wooden east wall of 1929 was replaced by a windowed wall in 1986.
Interior view facing east, toward the main altar and the windowed wall which replaced the temporary wooden wall of 1929

During construction, a robin nested atop scaffolding next to the top of one of the main pillars of the nave. Work in that area was deferred until the end of nesting season. R.W. Marsh, who was responsible for production of the many cast stone elements of the interior pillars and arches, suggested that a sculpture of the robin on its nest be placed atop the pillar, and offered to cast one in stone, given a model. Reginald Dove, the architect's assistant, sculpted the bird and nest in clay, and a stone casting of his model was made and installed on the capital of the pillar.[6]

In 1957, the western towers were completed and the arch over the rose window was built. To reduce costs, the towers were built twelve feet shorter than specified.

In the 1970s, the high altar which had been brought from the second cathedral and installed against the east wall was replaced by a detached altar and moved to the Lady Chapel. The lectern is that donated by Mrs. Hills in 1872.

By the 1980s, the wooden east wall had become unsound. Completion of the original design was abandoned, and a stone-clad addition containing a chapel, vestries, a chapter room, washrooms and other ancillary spaces was constructed to replace the wall. Even so, Christ Church is one of the larger churches in Canada, with a nave of 93' by 140', and towers of 122'.

Annunciation scene windows in the south corridor by artists Ed Schaefer and Tom Mercer were dedicated on 8 November 2009 by Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, in the presence of Rt. Rev. James Cowan.[7]

The Cathedral, its Memorial Hall, the Synod office and related buildings occupy the city block bounded by Quadra Street, Burdett Avenue, Vancouver Street and Rockland Avenue. The postal address of the Cathedral is 930 Burdett Avenue, Victoria, B.C. V8V 3G8, that of the former deanery where the cathedral offices are located.

The Institute For Stained Glass In Canada has documented the stained glass at Christ Church Cathedral.[8]

The Bell Tower and Change Ringing[edit]

The north west tower had been built only to the level of the bell chamber floor in the original construction. In 1936, through the generosity of two local donors, Mrs. Mozley and Mrs. Matson, a peal of eight bells for change ringing was purchased and installed atop this floor. The bells were made by Mears & Stainbank of Whitechapel, London and were shipped via the Panama Canal. They are of the same design as the peal at Westminster Abbey.[4]

The eight tons of steel girders and seven and a half tons of bells were hoisted the seventy feet onto the tower and installed by Yarrows Shipyard of Victoria under the direction of Edward W. Izard in just six working days. As the tower was incomplete, a wooden shed was built over the bells to protect them from the elements. The bells were first rung on July 12, 1936, and the tower was completed in 1957 when construction on the cathedral resumed. The bells are rung by the Ringers' Guild for Sunday services, festivals, funerals, weekly rehearsals, and by arrangement for weddings.

Two smaller bells were added in 1983 and were dedicated on March 8, 1983 in the presence of Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh before being hung in the tower. The Treble is dedicated to the memory of Mr. Izard, who led the ringing in the tower for nearly forty years, and the Second to the Queen's grandson Prince William, Duke of Cambridge. The Queen attended service at the cathedral again in 2002, when in Victoria as part of her Golden Jubilee royal tour of Canada.

Deans of Columbia[edit]

The Dean of Columbia is also Rector of Christ Church Cathedral, Victoria.

Cathedral Organists[edit]

These include:


  1. ^ Caradus, Sel (2004). A temple not made with hands. Victoria BC: Printorium Bookworks. ISBN 0-9736065-0-9. 
  2. ^ Judgment, Bishop of Columbia versus Rev. Mr. Cridge : judgement rendered on Saturday, October 24th, 1874, at 11:20 o'clock, A.M.
  3. ^ Storey, Vernon J. (2001-12-03). "Dean, Judge, and Bishop: Lessons from a Conflict and Implications for School Leaders". International Electronic Journal for Leadership in Learning. University of Calgary. 5 (17). ISSN 1206-9620. 
  4. ^ a b Schofield, Emily M. (1941). "Bishop". Charles Deveber Schofield: a personal memoir. Victoria BC. 
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-06-10. Retrieved 2010-09-06. 
  6. ^ "Venturesome Robin Which Built Nest At New Cathedral Is Perpetuated In Canmos Stone". Victoria Daily Times. 1929-09-28. p. 14. 
  7. ^ "Royal couple attends Remembrance Day Service in Victoria". Times Colonlist. 2009-11-09. 
  8. ^ stained glass at Christ Church Cathedral
  9. ^ "Edward & Mary Cridge". B.C. Protestant Orphans’ Home. Retrieved 6 April 2015. 
  10. ^ a b c Ferguson, juli. Sing a New Song: Portraits of Canada's Crusading Bishops. p. 61. 
  11. ^ [1]
  12. ^ "John Wright- Priest in Charge at Diocese of Nova Scotia and PEI". Linked-in. Retrieved 6 April 2015. 
  13. ^ "Logan McMenamie". The Anglican Diocese of British Columbia. Retrieved 6 April 2015. 
  14. ^
  15. ^ Steed, Graham Percy. F.R.C.O. Studied at the Royal Grammar School, Newcastle. Assistant organist of Jesmond Parish Church, 1934-41; organist of Benton Parish Church, Newcastle-on-Tyne, 1946-48; St. John’s Cathedral, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, 1949-; Christ Church Cathedral, Victoria, British Columbia; St. Mary’s Basilica, Halifax, Nova Scotia. b. Newcastle-on-Tyne, England, Mar. 1st, 1913; d. Canada, Mar. 6th, 1999. He is noted for his recordings of the organ music of Marcel Dupré.
  16. ^

External links[edit]