This material was provided by the Kirk of St. James in Charlottetown and is distributed as a brochure for visitors at the church. Pictures have been added.
Kirk of St. James
Kirk of St. James
Welcome to the historic Kirk of St. James Presbyterian church. This self-guide tour has been prepared as an interpretive guide that you may read as you discover this historic church.
The Kirk of St. James was designed in early Gothic revival style by David Sterling of the firm Sterling Dewar of Halifax. William Chritchlow Harris, the well known Charlottetown architect was associated with Mr. Sterling in the construction and supervision of the building. Mr. Harris was the architect responsible for designing many of the historic churches throughout the Island and many of the historic homes in Charlottetown. Construction commenced in 1877 and the building was opened and dedicated to the Glory of God on October 20, 1878.
The contractors, MacDonald and Fraser of New Glasgow, Nova Scotia were contracted for a price of $20,000.
The Kirk was built of Wallace Nova Scotia Freestone, with doorway facings, buttresses, and windows of Prince Edward Island Sandstone. The building is seventy-seven feet long, fifty-five wide and fifty-nine feet high with walls eight inches thick.
The tower has walls twenty inches thick and the spire reaches to a height of one hundred and thirty feet and constitutes one of the Kirk’s most striking features.
The Gothic style originated in northern France about the middle of the twelfth century and in the rest of Western Europe anywhere from a generation to a century later. This pre-dates the Renaissance which began in the fourteenth century.
The ceiling of the Kirk was destroyed by fire in 1898. W.C. Harris designed the present ceiling which is considered one of the most beautiful examples of groined vaulting-typical of the Gothic style-on Prince Edward Island.
This is the second Kirk to be erected on the site. The first one dedicated in 1831 was moved to the north of the lot and used for Sunday school. It has since been removed.
|First Kirk of St. James - dedicated in 1831|
Presbyterians arrived on the Island from Western Scotland as early as 1770. Prior to construction of the first Kirk which commenced in 1826, Reverend James MacGregor made visits from Pictou, Nova Scotia. Services of worship were conducted by visiting ministers in the eighteenth century at the Cross Keys Tavern, which was situated on Queen Street at Dorchester Street. The first minister at the Kirk of St. James was Reverend James MacKintosh who was sent out by the Glasgow Colonial Society of the Church of Scotland. Rev. MacKintosh was inducted on the day of dedication of the original Kirk on August 9th, 1831.
in the Kirk
This portion of the tour commences at the archway over the main door on Pownal Street. Above the entrance is a window depicting Christ the King holding the Orb of World Dominion. His hand is raised in blessing upon all who enter to worship and adore. The figure of the Saviour King is surrounded by cherubs in heavenly glory.
Next to the main entrance, towards Fitzroy Street, is the David of Israel window that is surrounded by symbols of agriculture, leadership, and the psalms.
The next two windows depict Saint Cecilia, patroness of music, who holds an organ, and Saint Hilda, the patroness of women teachers, who holds a book of music. A lamp of learning appears at the top of this window.
The window above the Fitzroy Street entrance is comprised of one trefoil and two quadrifids. The trefoil at the top contains an equilateral triangle representing the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as equal, yet one. The rays of light shine forth in all directions as a light to our feet and a lamp to our path, a light the darkness shall never overcome. The christogram in the left lobe speaks of Christ the Redeemer, who though dead yet forever lives triumphantly in full authority over the world and its people whom he has redeemed. The descending dove in the right lobe symbolizes the Holy Spirit and the peace and purity that come through His presence among us. The tablets of stone in the right quadrifid represent the Ten Commandments and the honour and respect God expects us to show to Him and to one another issuing in harmony, righteousness, and justice. The serpent with its head draped over the cross in defeat symbolizes evil conquered and the righteousness of God prevailing through the death and resurrection of Christ. The hive in the left quadrifid is a symbol of a faithful worker, and is an appropriate reminder of Mr. Fred Smith, our faithful custodian for many years and for whom this window is dedicated. The bees around the hive speak of people working together within the church in harmony and co-operation. The seven bees and seven layers in the hive represent perfection for which we must strive. The hive resting upon the Bible suggests that the word is “as sweet as honey.” He said to me, Mortal, eat this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it. Then I ate it; and in my mouth it was as sweet as honey. Ezekiel 3:3
“The Resurrection” on the east wall
Leaving the narthex and entering the church you will notice the massive stained glass window high on the nave to the left or south wall. Here is a portrayal of the Good Shepherd. The adjoining panels display the scrolls symbolizing prophecy and evangelism. This window was the gift of the Honourable J.C. Pope (one of the Island representatives at the 1864 Charlottetown Conference which led to Confederation) and William Welch, and was the result of an election wager. Below this to the left are two windows portraying Moses and Isaiah who represent the Law and the Prophets.
The three windows depicting Saint Stephen, Saint John, and Saint Timothy are the congregation’s memorial to those who gave their lives in the Second World War. In the upper portions of these windows are the Coat of Arms of the Dominion of Canada, the Province of Prince Edward Island, and the City of Charlottetown. At the base of each are the crests of the Navy, the Army, and the Air Force.
Beyond these, still on the south wall, are panels portraying two great figures of the New Testament, Saint Peter Apostle of the Jews, and Saint Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles. Saint Peter holds the keys to the kingdom, and Saint Paul the sword of the spirit.
Above the door in the Prowse Memorial is a beautiful Good Shepard window.
High on the West wall near the south corner is a depiction of Saint Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland.
The large chancel window “I know that my Redeemer liveth”, is adorned with many symbols.
Over the Holy Table in the chancel are two smaller windows. One portrays Our Lord with the chalice of Holy Communion and the other portrays Saint James, the patron Saint of this congregation. Saint James has the pilgrim’s staff in hand and the traditional scallop shell of his apostleship in his cap.
Above-still on the west wall-over towards the north corner is a depiction of Saint Nicholas the patron saint of Aberdeen. Below Saint Nicholas is one that portrays the figure of Hope.
To the right of these, on the north wall, are windows depicting Saint Kentigern, the patron saint of Glasgow, and Saint Margaret of Scotland. The upper portion of this window depicts Edinburgh Castle, the centre of Saint Margaret’s great work in the restoration and extension of the Church of Scotland in the eleventh century.
Further along the north wall, to the right of the organ pipes is the Aubery Blanchard Memorial window in honour of a young engineer who drowned in the St. Lawerence River in 1905.
Beyond this are windows portraying Saint Ninian, who was the first Apostle of Scotland, (in the panel below is his little church at Whithorn, the first stone sanctuary in Britain) and Saint Columba, who was the sixth founder of the great Iona mission, and the Apostle to the Highlands. The panel below features a coracle, the vessel which carried Saint Columba and his monks across the sea from Ireland.
To the right of these on the east wall are windows depicting Saint Mark with the symbol of a lion above him, and Saint Luke with the symbol of an Ox above him.
Above the balcony on the east wall is a large window portraying The Resurrection. The panels on either side depict sacramental symbols, seraphs and angels in glory. To the left of this is a smaller window which is an interpretation of Revelations 3:20, “Behold I stand at the door and knock.”
Located in the church hall is “the Hosts to God” which portrays Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus surrounded by all the animals that are mentioned in the gospel story of the nativity. It was designed by Island artists John Burden and Blaine Harabi.
“The Hosts to God” in the church hall