Not packed in a bus. Not herded with a group. Self guided walk is the SAFEST way to sightsee while observing SOCIAL DISTANCING!

Ottawa's Famous Churches (Self Guided), Ottawa

The city of Ottawa has some amazing religious sites and it is a perfect religious destination for people interested in that. With most of the attractions located in downtown or in the near vicinity, you will have no trouble in visiting some of these attractions on your trip. We invite you to take a walking tour and see the formidable churches of Ottawa.
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Ottawa's Famous Churches Map

Guide Name: Ottawa's Famous Churches
Guide Location: Canada » Ottawa (See other walking tours in Ottawa)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 6
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.1 Km or 3.2 Miles
Author: helenp
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Christ Church Cathedral
  • Saint Patrick's Basilica
  • The Church of Saint John the Evangelist
  • Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica
  • Saint Brigid's Church
  • Sainte-Anne Catholic Church
Christ Church Cathedral

1) Christ Church Cathedral

Located in the northwest part of Ottawa, Christ Church Cathedral is an Anglican temple renowned for its rich history. Many memorial inscriptions and dedications are found on the Cathedral's stained-glass windows, in prayer books, on pipe organ and a number of other items. Historic works of art are displayed here along with the Diocese of Ottawa Archives present on the lower level, attesting to the Cathedral's rich historic heritage.

In 1800, Philemon Wright, resident of Woburn, Massachusetts visited Canada and decided to settle at Chaudière Falls by the Ottawa River. His settlement grew into a village which later evolved into the City of Hull and subsequently was renamed the City of Gatineau. To the south of the Ottawa River, a place was reserved to accommodate retired military personnel. In 1824, Nicholas Sparks built there a house for himself, thus becoming the first citizen of the future Bytown which eventually became the City of Ottawa. In 1926, Colonel John By and the Royal Engineers built the Rideau Canal that linked the Ottawa River with Lake Ontario.

Slowly, Bytown turned into a commercial hub, and its people felt the need to have their own church. Nicholas Sparks deeded a piece of land in Bytown for the first Anglican church to be built on, and in fact it was built in 1832. The church stood incomplete for many years, though, with services carried out in the unfinished building. When Ottawa became the capital city of Canada in 1867, resulting in the need of a new larger temple, the old Christ Church was knocked down in 1872 and a new one was erected in its place a year later. The new Christ Church was given the status of cathedral in 1896.

Christ Church Cathedral has been a prominent place of worship for the local community ever since.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Saint Patrick's Basilica

2) Saint Patrick's Basilica

Founded in 1855, Saint Patrick's Basilica is the oldest English service Catholic church in Ottawa. Architect Augustus Laver of Fuller & Laver started the construction of the present Saint Patrick's Basilica in 1868. The original plan sustained great modifications during the construction. In 1872, Bishop Guigues, the first bishop of Ottawa, put his blessings on the cornerstone and Sir John A. MacDonald, the first Prime Minister of Canada, laid it.

Made of local stone and in a Gothic style, the church has an arched ceiling. With a seating capacity of 1000 people, it has double aisles and a short transept. Its altars are made of marble and windows are of stained glass. Some of them, as well as the ceiling, most of the wall paintings were created by Guido Nincheri.

In 1875, Archbishop Duhamel blessed the partially complete building and named it after the patron saint of Ireland. The Irish have always formed a significant part of Saint Patrick's congregation and most of its priests were Irish. Names of the priests who died in World War I and World War II are listed on the main entrance to the church. There are five choirs in the basilica. Its singers consist of a group of vocalist singers who voluntarily offer their services every other week.

Due to its historical importance, St. Patrick's Basilica was acknowledged as a Heritage Building by the Canadian Government in 1987.
The Church of Saint John the Evangelist

3) The Church of Saint John the Evangelist

The Church of St. John the Evangelist is an Anglican temple in Ottawa. Its history goes back to the 19th century to a church built in 1853 for Anglican soldiers posted in Bytown. In 1861, it was replaced with a small Chapel of Ease whose name was then changed to St. John's in 1871, courtesy of Bishop John Lewis, who wished to set up a pro-cathedral of the Diocese of Ontario.

In 1889, an uproar broke out in the neighbouring St George’s Church on liturgy, following which a group of thirty people left the congregation with a plan to build a church of their own. Architect Mr. J. Hames was hired to do the design and the construction got underway with the cornerstone laid on October 21, 1890. Within a year, the church was completed and sanctified as Grace Church.

In 1912, a terrible fire ravaged St John’s church. After that, St John’s and Grace Church were merged in 1913 to form what's since been known as The Church of St John the Evangelist. The interior of this church is clad totally in wood and embellished with several stained-glass windows, while the outer walls feature brick- and stonework.

The Church of St John the Evangelist has been long known for its benign attitude toward gay people. Its first rector, Canon Gorman, had a son who was gay, and was much loved and well remembered by the parishioners. Gay people were energetic members of the local community in the 1960s and 1970s. When the epidemic of AIDS stroke in the mid 1980s, the gay community were given full support by St. John’s.

St John’s is equally dedicated to both prayer and the community work. Its activities include arranging political meetings, organizing concerts, housing art festivals along with many other events beneficial to the whole community.
Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica

4) Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica (must see)

Set in the place where the first Catholic chapel once stood, Notre-Dame Basilica is the oldest church in Ottawa that has survived for many centuries. In 1978, the Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Ottawa was officially marked as a historic building by the City Council.

In 1832, a small wooden church, known as St. Jacques Church, was erected on the site. In 1841 it was demolished with the plan of being replaced by a larger church. The latter was designed in a Neo-classical style by Antoine Robillard and Father Cannon. After the completion of the church's lower section, the construction was handed over to Father Telmon who redesigned it in a more famous Neo-Gothic style. As a result, the building features a combination of styles: Neo-classical in the lower section and Neo-Gothic in the rest of it.

The interior of the church is more brightly painted and more elaborately decorated than the exterior. There are superb stained glass windows and a large number of statues of different religious persons, the most notable of which is the gold-plated statue of Madonna with twin spires. The church and its characteristic architectural features are clearly visible from the nearby Parliament Hill. The latest renovation of the church took place in the late 1990s.

Among other notable events that have taken place at Notre-Dame Basilica are the funeral ceremonies of Governor General Georges Vanier and Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier. Visitors are free to enter the church and offer their prayers during the week. Many of the visitors, however, are attracted by the majestic grandeur of the building itself.

Why You Should Visit:
There is no charge to enter and you can have a free English/French tour of the church both upper and down in the hall with another chapel (check out the schedule online).

Pay attention to the details of things such as the marble pillars, which are actually made of wood made to look like marble.

Opening Hours:
Mon: 11:30am-6pm; Tue-Sat: 9am-6pm; Sun: 8am-8:30pm
Saint Brigid's Church

5) Saint Brigid's Church

Located in the Lower Town part of Ottawa, St Brigid's church was once a Roman Catholic temple. It stands on the corner of St. Patrick and Cumberland streets, and was built to serve the local anglophone Catholic community, most of whom were traders, lumbermen and other types of blue-colour workers.

By 1870, the reduction in the Irish percentage of Ottawa population had led to an ever diminishing role of the Irish in the life and management of Notre-Dame (the parish formed prior to the opening of St Brigid's). In 1888, a meeting to establish a distinct English-speaking parish and church for Lower Town was held with Archbishop Duhamel. English people demanded that a separate parish for them should be built. Finally, it was agreed on and the site for a new parish was chosen quickly.

James R. Bowes was appointed the project architect and Mr. J.J. Lyons was chosen as the contractor. Within a year, the construction was over and the Romanesque Revival style church was blessed in 1890. The building represents an eclectic mix of Victorian motifs and Gothic Revival features. It is built of limestone and has a pitched roof. The most unique element of the principal façade are the two towers of different heights. The interior has wonderful Tudor fan tomb with pendants. Messrs Castle of Montreal supplied the stained glass windows in 1890. The window over the main altar depicts St. Bridget in prayer, while the four light windows over the organ feature St. Patrick, Ste. Anne, the Virgin, and St. Joseph.

In 1992, the City of Ottawa designated this church under the Ontario Heritage Act as a major historic landmark and a part of the heritage area.

By 2006, the congregation of St Brigid's had shrunk considerably and the structure itself weakened a lot. Archbishop Marcel Gervais closed down the church and the building was sold in 2007 to four investors who converted it into an Irish-Canadian heritage centre and a venue for concerts, plays and art exhibitions.
Sainte-Anne Catholic Church

6) Sainte-Anne Catholic Church

Located on Old St. Patrick Street in Ottawa's Lower Town, Sainte-Anne is a Roman Catholic church built in 1873. Designed by architect J.P. LeCourt, it remains one of the few pieces of the typical Québécois architecture left in the city and the entire province of Ontario.

The idea to build this church belonged to Bishop Guigues. By the 1870s, Ottawa’s francophone Catholic community had expanded, to serve which the capacity of Notre-Dame Cathedral wasn't enough, and so the construction of Sainte-Anne got underway led by the team of contractor Pierre Rocque and designer LeCourt. On May 4, 1873, Bishop Guigues laid the cornerstone of the church. Upon its completion, the church had a facade of simple stonework with a medieval-style rose window.

The history of Sainte-Anne church in Ottawa dates back to the time when the Michilimackinac congregation built a new church and named it “Ste. Anne’s,” in honour of the mother of the Virgin Mary. As the patron saint of voyageurs, the inhabitants of Michilimackinac had a special attachment to Ste. Anne. In 1761, the British invaded Canada and captured Michilimackinac. But the church of Ste. Anne continued to thrive until Father Pierre DuJaunay was called off four years later. The devotees continued to come to the church for prayers and looked forward to the occasional visit of a missionary priest. Sainte-Anne was cared for by parish leaders in a hope that a priest would return to their remote parish one day.

During the American Revolution, the Michilimackinac community was moved to the safety of Mackinac Island. Ste. Anne’s was also dismantled and taken to the island in 1780 by the order of Lieutenant Governor Patrick Sinclair. Made up of the sturdy logs, the church was rebuilt along the shore of the island’s protected bay and thus set foundation for a new fort.

Despite repeated requests of the parish leaders to have a permanent priest at Mackinac, only visiting clergy attended the island. At that crucial time, in the first half of the nineteenth century, Magdelaine Laframboise, a prominent fur trader of Canadian and French descent, came up with the required leadership and support. She was a devoted lady and frequently appeared as a godmother to the baptized and witness at marriages. In the mid 1820s, she gave up property next to her house in order to accommodate the church and the priest when the parish leaders decided to move them from the village to a new location. As a token of respect for her devotion, Magdelaine's request to be buried beneath the altar after her death was granted. Father Henri Van Renterghem fulfilled her wish when she passed away in 1846.

During the 1990s, a porch on the east side of Ste Anne's was added in the course of its renovation, plus the tomb of Madame LaFramboise placed in one of the church's peaceful gardens. Also at that time, an on-site museum was opened, rendering the site more interesting to the public.
Sight description based on wikipedia

Walking Tours in Ottawa, Canada

Create Your Own Walk in Ottawa

Create Your Own Walk in Ottawa

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Ottawa Haunted Walking Tour

Ottawa Haunted Walking Tour

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Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
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Ottawa Introduction Walk

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Bars and Pubs Walking Tour

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Ottawa Famous Museums Walking Tour

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Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.5 Km or 0.9 Miles
Ottawa Famous Galleries Walking Tour

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Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.1 Km or 1.3 Miles