Post 39: St Raphaels’ Ruins


Aug 15th, 2017

Driving around yesterday, we saw a sign for St Raphaels’ Ruins. We had heard about this historical site from chatting with some folks at the Maplewood RV campground. Deciding to stop and smell the roses so to speak, Bill  took the right turn and we went off to explore.

Down the road a few klms, we saw in the distance this beautiful, massive structure of a windowless church. The church stood over 2 stories high with the peaks reaching into the sky.

The structure was impressive even from a distance.  Walking through the entrance made us pause and just look around. The sight was peaceful. That was the first word that came to my mind. Maybe even  a little ghostly :).

Everything was spotless and well maintained. Grass covered the different levels of what would have been the church floor. The stone stairs remained, worn in spots from many footsteps over time.

There was no longer any glass in the tall windows, or doors on any of the door frames. Just bars on the lower doors that were locked to keep the church safe at night we  assumed. One entrance was open for the public.

There were a few formal plaques up in memory of families past that donated to the upkeep of the church and the refurbishing of the church after the fire of Aug 1970.


A small sign stated you may rent the church for weddings or other formal occasions. Walking to the very front of the church and standing high on what Joy thought may of been the alter area. Envisioning  a charming place to have a wedding.

We felt we should be  whispering respectfully in a church :).

Pictures of the church and a few of the plaques.

The following, is a brief history borrowed from the “About the Ruins ” website.


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.


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