Notable Religious Landmarks

While Victoria and Canada are relatively new in the grand scheme of things, there are still plenty of notable religious landmarks to be seen. Many are inspired by the treasures found in Europe, and are just as impressive in architecture and detail. From churches, to cathedrals and synagogues, Victoria has a dash of many different religions, practices and places of prayer that add their mark to the city’s architecture and interwoven cloth of cultures.

Photo by: Earle Hickey

St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church

St. Andrew’s is one of downtown Victoria’s most dominating religious landmarks. Its three arched doorways, impressive towers and red-brick façade ensure you won’t miss it from where it sits at its popular, downtown location. Its Scottish Baronial details show off the history of Scottland’s influence on Victoria’s architecture and presence of the Presbyterian congregation. The church was the most lavish, and largest building in the city at its time of construction in 1889. It was one of the first churches in North America to be provided with electric lights thanks to Robert Burns McMicking. The church also contains plenty of Late Victorian ecclesiastical features and was designed by Leonard Buttress Trimen. Its amphitheater seating, towering vaulted ceilings, impressive pipe organ and stained-glass windows are some of its most impressive features, as well as the imposing tower outside. The rose window of the church was donated by the Dunsmuir family in honor of Robert Dunsmuir, a coal baron and one of Victoria’s prominent historical figures, who was part of the congregation and died just before the church was complete.

While St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church is still a functioning place of prayer, a step inside to be awed by the high ceilings and stunning details makes for a great visit.

Congregation Emanu-el Synagogue

The Congregation Emanu-El Synagogue was built in 1963, and is the oldest surviving synagogue in Canada, the oldest synagogue still in use, and the oldest synagogue building on this coast of North America. Due to these claims, as well as the stunning architecture and role of this building, it is now a National Historic Site of Canada. The synagogue is also located in downtown Victoria, and its three arched doorways welcome passersby inside. Underneath the building lies a time capsule for when the first cornerstones were laid. The Romanesque Revival-style architecture gives the small building a reserved, yet prominent stature from where it sits on a busy street corner downtown. The synagogue is a stunning link to Victoria’s past, the first Jewish settlers in British Columbia and traditional design.

Photo By: Jes Lu

Saint Andrew’s Cathedral

Saint Andrew’s Cathedral is hard to miss from where it sits in the heart of downtown Victoria. While it isn’t the original St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Victoria, it is the longest lasting, having been built in 1890 and continuing its status to the present day. The original St. Andrew’s Cathedral was at St. Ann’s Academy, and the second was replaced by the St. Andrew’s Square office building. Dedicated in 1892, the cathedral was eventually declared a National Historic Site of Canada nearly 100 years later.  Built in in High Victorian Gothic style, the cathedral’s gorgeous tall towers and red-brick façade lend a unique architectural twist to Victoria’s downtown skyline. Stained glass windows add delicate details to the church and the altar itself is one of St. Andrew’s Cathedral’s most important features. It was built by famous West Coast native artist Charles Eliot. The pipe-organ is another notable feature, and below the church lies a crypt, holding the bodies of some of Victoria’s most important Bishops. While St. Andrew’s Cathedral is still an active place of prayer, the doors are open for those intrigued by the stunning, medieval European-inspired architecture inside and out.

Photo By: Jose Gomez Monico

Christ Church Cathedral

The Christ Church Cathedral that sits just beyond Pioneer Square is not the same church that welcomed the first of the Anglican congregation. In fact, it only existed for thirteen years before burning to the ground, eventually being replaced by a small wooden building that took just over six months to finish. The new wooden building eventually became too small for the church’s needs, so a large design competition took to the city, which resulted in the third and final Christ Church Cathedral. While the lack of funds put off the construction of the 13th century Gothic-style church until 1923, the incredible building was well worth the wait. Various add-ons continued well into the 1950s, with renovations through to the 2000s. This particular Cathedral resembles those that you would see in Europe, with an impressive stone façade, twin towers and high-vaulted ceilings inside. A massive pipe organ facing the delicate altar, with stained glass windows and interior walls adorned with fine details beg visitors to take a step inside and be enthralled with this third-time’s-the-charm cathedral. It is definitely one of Victoria’s most notable religious landmarks.

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