Ottawa's Historical Churches Walking Tour (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 Historical Churches Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Ottawa's Historical Churches Walking Tour
Guide Location: Canada » Ottawa (See other walking tours in Ottawa)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 7
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.2 Km or 2 Miles
Author: helenp
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica
  • St. Paul's Eastern United Church
  • St. Alban's Anglican Church
  • Saint Joseph Parish
  • First Baptist Church
  • Knox Presbyterian Church
  • The Church of Saint John the Evangelist
Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica

1) 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.

Among the 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: 11:30 - 18:00; Tue-Sat: 9:00 - 18:00; Sun: 8:00 - 20:30.
St. Paul's Eastern United Church

2) St. Paul's Eastern United Church

St. Paul's-Eastern United Church is one of the oldest congregations in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. The Romanesque Revival structure was built from 1888 to 1889 for St. Paul's Presbyterian Church by S.R. Badgley, architect. It originally had a large steeple. Unfortunately the church was built on sand, and the steeple side started sinking into the ground. The steeple was therefore removed early in the 20th century, leaving the building as a relatively squat stone structure.

With the creation of the United Church of Canada in 1925, St. Paul's merged with the nearby Eastern Methodist Church and got its current name.

In the late part of the 20th century the church struggled. The growing secularization of Canadian society and the smaller number of people living downtown meant that the church was rarely more than half full and the Sunday school had only a handful of children.
Sight description based on wikipedia
St. Alban's Anglican Church

3) St. Alban's Anglican Church

St. Albans Anglican Church is an Anglican church in the Sandy Hill neighbourhood of Ottawa. It is one of Ottawa's oldest surviving church buildings and one of its most historic.

The original Gothic Revival design for the church was done in 1866 by Thomas Fuller, who also designed Canada's original Parliament Buildings. The cornerstone of the church was laid on May 9, 1867. Construction of the church began in 1867 and it was completed in 1868. However, the location of the church, at the corner of King Edward and Daly, is on a steep hill and Fuller's elaborate plans had to be greatly scaled back.

The church's namesake is Saint Alban, who was the first British Christian martyr. He was martyred for "harbouring and sheltering the oppressed and terrified".

The church was attended by many of Canada's early political leaders, including Sir John A. Macdonald. The building has a Municipal designation under the Ontario Heritage Act, Section 29.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Saint Joseph Parish

4) Saint Joseph Parish

St. Joseph's is a small, stone-made, traditional Roman Catholic parish in Ottawa. It was built in 1856 on what was then thought to be a burial ground for the many labourers that had died during the construction of the Rideau Canal. The Anglophone congregation of St. Joseph's was formed by members of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.

In 1828, John By donated a piece of land to his lieutenant, Réné Léonard Besserer, who died shortly afterwards, upon which his older brother, Louis Théodore Besserer, split the land (much of today's Sandy Hill) into small plots and put them on sale. Infertile and sandy, and in the absence of any business, school or church nearby, the land found no buyer. In 1845, some parts thereof were given to Roman Catholic Church for the establishment of a church and a college. It is here that Saint Joseph’s Parish and College of Ottawa were built.

The church was consecrated in 1858. Among its most distinctive architectural features were a clock above the door and the bells – the first church bells in Ottawa. The building could seat 230 parishioners. After designation of Ottawa as the capital of Canada, many people moved into the area and started to attend the church services. In 1866, the seating capacity of Saint Joseph’s increased with more benches being put in.

In 1893, a new church - capable of seating 1100 people - was built in the place of the original Saint Joseph’s. Constructed in the Roman Renaissance style, it stood only for 37 years and was completely destroyed by fire on December 27, 1930.

A third church was constructed upon the foundations of the second Saint Joseph’s, with some parts of the predecessor being preserved but the style changed from Roman Renaissance to Neo-Gothic. The present church is said to be more liberal because it allows more women participation in the services.
Sight description based on wikipedia
First Baptist Church

5) First Baptist Church

First Baptist Church is a prominent Baptist church in Ottawa. The church was first founded in 1857, the first Baptist congregation in Ottawa. The current church was designed by architect James Mather and constructed 1877-8.

The cornerstone was laid by then Prime Minister, Alexander Mackenzie. As a Baptist, Mackenzie worshiped at the church when he was in Ottawa after services began in 1878.

The First Baptist Church Ottawa erected memorial plaques which are dedicated to the members of the Congregation who served and to those who gave their lives during the Second World War (1939-1945).

The church was expanded in 1916, and significantly renovated in 1928. In 1966-1967, to celebrate Canada's Centennial, a massive organ was installed.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Knox Presbyterian Church

6) Knox Presbyterian Church

Knox Presbyterian Church is a Presbyterian Church in Ottawa, named after John Knox, a founder of Presbyterianism in Scotland.

Knox was founded as a result of the split within the congregation of St. Andrew's, Ottawa's first Presbyterian church, between those loyal to the Church of Scotland and those supporting the Free Church movement, as had occurred in Scotland the year before. The supporters of the Free Church in Ottawa and environs, set up Knox Free Church in 1844, just after the Church of Scotland's Canadian Synod in Kingston was split.

Designed by Donald Kennedy in 1845, the original Knox Church was located in Sandy Hill at the corner of Daly Avenue and Cumberland.

In 1874, the Knox congregation moved downtown, leaving their building to the first St. Paul's Presbyterian, that became St. Paul's-Eastern United Church (Eastern Methodist) after church union in 1925.

This second Knox Church was built on Elgin Street at Albert Street next door to the Second City Hall (Ottawa) on what is today the site of the National Arts Centre. The Regimental and King’s Colours of the 207th Battalion were "laid up" at Knox in 1919. They now rest in the sanctuary of the present church in a display case with a plaque dedicated to the memory of those who served in the 207th (Ottawa-Carleton) Battalion, CEF during the First World War.

In 1930, the City of Ottawa expropriated this area to widen Elgin Street and Knox Church, which had remained within the Presbyterian Church in Canada in 1925, was forced to move a few blocks to its present location at the corner of Lisgar and Elgin. The second church was demolished in 1932. The Drawings Collection at the Ontario Archives contains the set of plans by Langley for this ecclesiastical commission 889-98.

The present Knox Church building, designed in 1931 by John Albert Ewart and Henry Sproatt opened in 1932. The church has hosted the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Canada three times.
Sight description based on wikipedia
The Church of Saint John the Evangelist

7) 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.

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