The grandest of Prince Edward Island’s buildings crumbled to the ground one century ago.
On March 7 and 8, 1913, flames raged through a majestic cathedral in Charlottetown, reducing to rubble a fine representation of the High Victorian Gothic Revival style of architecture that was constructed between 1896 and 1907.
Out of the ashes arose the awe-inspiring St. Dunstan’s Basilica on Great George Street that draws thousands of visitors each year and appreciative looks of wonderment from passersby.
Rev. Floyd Gallant, rector of St. Dunstan’s Basilica, says no plans were made to mark the sombre anniversary of the blaze.
“We will not celebrate the fire but we will celebrate the centennial of the new cathedral in 2019,’’ said Gallant. “We will certainly remember it on Thursday (during mass).’’
The archbishop of Iconium, the Most Rev. Pietro Di Maria, rededicated the basilica on Sept. 24, 1919.
The official consecration of the cathedral, at which time it became the second church in English speaking Canada to become a basilica, took place June 26, 1929 — 100 years after the Diocese of Charlottetown was created.
In 1990, the church’s architecture was recognized when it was designated as a National Historic Site.
Since the 1980s, St. Dunstan’s has been undergoing extensive work to strengthen and clean the building.
In 2009, close to $1.6 million in renovations began with work focused on the basilica’s third spire, the replacement of the cracked and damaged steps going into the church, as well as a new slate roof. Extensive work has also been carried out to the windows and doors and the stone floor inside the church.
The restoration process, costing in excess of $5 million over the past dozen or so years, is intended to ready the building for the next 100 years.