St. Alexis Roman Catholic Church - Rollo Bay, PEI
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member BK-Hunters
N 46° 21.612 W 062° 18.866
20T E 552739 N 5134297
Quick Description: In August of 2015, two months after we visited, St Alexis closed its doors for the last time.
Location: Prince Edward Island, Canada
Date Posted: 5/20/2016 7:25:30 PM
Waymark Code: WMR772
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member YoSam.
Views: 1

Long Description:
After 203 years of service to the Catholic community of Rollo Bay, due to declining attendance and weakening finances the church held its final mass on August 9, 2015. Designed by James Edward Harris, nephew of well-known PEI Architect William Critchlow Harris, this would be the fourth church erected by the parish, the first a small log chapel erected in 1804, the second in 1824, the third in 1853 and this building in 1930, on the site of the 1853 church. When this church was built, the 1853 church was moved across the road and used for several years as the church hall. It has since been demolished. At the time of the construction of the first church, Rollo Bay was known as Anse a Matieu.

Incidentally, the 203 years mentioned in news articles concerning the closure of the church in 2015 would give a creation date of 1812. Indeed, the little chapel, though built in 1804, was dedicated to St. Alexis by Bishop Plessis on the 17th of July, 1812.

This building resembles that of St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church in Indian River, which had been designed by William Critchlow Harris in 1902, an indication of the relationship between the two Harrises and the fact that James had studied under William Critchlow for a time.

The building was given a pair of towers at the front, a smaller one on the right and the large bell tower and steeple on the left. Note that, somewhat unusually, the towers are both octagonal from the ground to the cross atop. In typical Harris style, the towers, especially, were given much attention to detail, including a double row of dentils at the belfry, hoods over the openings and decorative shingle work. Above the belfry are a total of sixteen small gable roofed Gothic arched openings, two on each of the eight faces.

One of the church's most prized possessions is the bell, buried at St. Pierre (now St. Peter's Harbour) by fleeing Acadians at the time of the Expulsion, or Le Grande Derangement. This was done to prevent its falling into the hands of the English. The bell had been cast in Michelin, France in 1723 and brought to the new world by the Acadians about 1752. Discovered in 1870 by a farmer while ploughing a field, it eventually made its way to St. Alexis and was hung in the belfry of the 1853 church. Broken by overzealous use by the parishioners, it was recast by Meneely & Co. of West Troy, N.Y. and remains in the 1930 church. Whether or not it is in the tower, we don't know.


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St. Alexis Roman Catholic Church

The first little log chapel was built in the year 1804 under the direction of Father McEachern, afterwards Bishop McEachern. At this time there were but eighteen families in theparish and they all assisted in the building of the little church which was but thirty feet in length by twenty in breadth and twelve feet high. It was iedicated to St. Alexis by Bishop Flessis July 17th, 1812. It stood down close to the shore, beside the old burying ground where sleep the pioneer settlers of Rollo Bay. There are no very old toombstones to be seen in this ancient cemetery, those placed there in early days were made of old red sandstones and have crumbled away. A tall cross and a neat white fence mark it off as a place consecrated to the faithful dead. The second church of the mission was built in 1824, the builder was one Bartlett Dumphy.

The cemetery of Rollo Bay is by some persons considered to be more beautiful than any in the Island. It faces to the east of the church and is shaded by many graceful white birch trees. In the centre is a cross in memory of the mission of 1844.

The third and present church of Rollo Pay was built in 1853 by Lawrence Murphy and Lawrence Peters. It stands on rising ground overlooking one of the fairest landscapes of Prince Edward Island. Here the const line is broken by two beautiful bays, the points of land which separate them being high and well wooded in parts, while the farms theron give evidence of careful cultivation and great fertility. The church is sixty-feet in length by forty two in width; Vie height of the wall is twenty one feet. In 1870-2 a chancel and tower were added to it. The High Altar, which came from Montreal, is delicately though profusely coloured in blue and gold with touches of pink, grey and brown. The frontal is of carton pierre, a representation of the Last Supper in bas relief. Upon the alter are statues of Our Lady and St. Joseph which are painted to harmonize with their background, and on either side brass brackets support adoring angels...

The dearest treasure of Rollo Bay church, however, is its bell. Long ago in the last century when there was no Mr. Phinsoll to protect the rights of those who go down to the sea in ships, the English government, being determined to get rid of the French inhabitants of the then populous little town of St. Pierre, situated upon the harbour at that name, decided upon a plan akin to that taken by the Sultan when he quietly drops obnoxious individuals into the Bosphorus, and sent three hundred of the French adrift in a leaky vessel avowedly with the intention of transporting them to France. Before leaving, these poor people, as was the usual custom of the Acadians, buried such things as they considered too sacred to fall into the hands of the English, among these was their church bell. In the year 1870 a Mr. Barry of St. Peters Harbour, while ploughing in his field, struck some object that gave forth a Metallic sound, and which proved to be the bell of the old church of St. Pierre which had lain unharmed in the earth for over one hundred years. Mr. Barry presented his treasure trove to the parishioners of Morell who exchanged it for a new bell with the people of Rollo Bay. The old relic was rapturously welcomed by the descendants of its first owners and was killed by kindness. Everybody wanted to ring it, and everybody did ring it, in consequence it was broken and had to be recast. In 1882 it was placed in the tower of St. Alexis Church, where it rings the Angelas as of old to the great joy of all the faithful of the mission.

The bell bears the following inscription:

Jesus † Marie † Joseph †
"P. Cosse m' a fait, - Michelin 1723. In 1870 Je fus retire' des ruines d'une eglise d'un ancien village Acadian I.P.E. En 1882 les paroisieus de Rollo Bay me firent refondre par Meneely et Cie de West Troy, N.Y. en souvenir de leures ancetres de L'Acadie."

From Island Lives, Page 22

Church Name: St. Alexis Roman Catholic Church

Church In Use (even only just occassionally): no

Date Church Built: 1930

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