In 1811, Earl of Selkirk, a Scottish noble and controller of the Hudson's Bay Company which had jurisdiction on the North West (of what is now part of Canada) established a colony at the junction of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers. He was seeking agricultural land for Scottish farmers which had been forced off their farms in Scotland.
The local Metis and natives saw this granting of land as an hostile act. After all, they had been there for years trading furs under the North West Company. They also worried that the settlers would drive away the buffalo which was their main source of food.
The colony came under constant attack from the Metis and the North West Company, rival company to the Hudson's Bay.
As times were tense. Lord Selkirk brought in German and Swiss troops for protection, and in return, would give these soldiers land. He then asked Father Provencher from Montreal to establish a mission across the river from Upper Fort Garry to serve the Indians and the Metis which lived at the Forks. The priest accepted and came west.
In 1818, Father Provencher built a 30 feet by 50 feet log chapel across the Red River from Fort Garry and dedicated it to Saint Boniface in honour of the des Meurons Regiment.
A few years after, in 1820, a larger log chapel was built. It measured 100 feet by 33 feet. Father Provencher became bishop in 1822 and consecrated the church. It thus became the first cathedral.
In 1832, Father Provencher built the second cathedral on this site. This cathedral burned in 1860, and a third one would be built in 1862 by Bishop Tache. It would suffice for many years, and in 1905-1908, the fourth one would be built for the growing population. Designed by the Montreal architectural firm of Marchand and Haskell, this cathedral, blessed by Mgr Langevin, was the best example of French Romanesque architecture in Manitoba. Sadly, it was ravaged by fire on July 22, 1968.
Within these ruins, and retaining the facade and the walls, a new cathedral would be designed by Franco-Manitoba architect Etienne Gaboury in 1972. Blessed by Archbishop Baudoux, it stands as proud today as it did one hundred years past.
Today, the tombs of six bishops and four missionaries lie within the crypt of St. Boniface Cathedral.
Louis Riel, Founder of Manitoba and Father of the Metis Homeland, is buried here in Western Canada's largest and oldest Catholic cemetery.