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
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
The colony came under constant attack from the Metis and the North West
Company, rival company to the
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
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
In 1832, 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