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Museum of
Canada

Building Unity

The involvement of Catholic parishioners in the Basilica's construction is a testament to the perseverance and spirit of nineteenth century immigrants to the New World. The building of a massive cathedral overlooking the town created an optimism that encouraged both Catholics and non-Catholics alike to assist in the construction. Bishop Fleming foresaw this project not only as an opportunity to build unity between Catholics and Protestants, but also to dissolve differences between Catholic factions within different parts of Newfoundland.

There are remarkable stories recounting scenes of the Cathedral's construction - teams of men unloading stone from boats in St. John's harbour to be hauled up the steep hill to the construction site, women carrying bricks and mortar in their aprons; even Bishop Fleming himself, waist deep in water at Kelly's Island, loading stone to be carried to St. John's. Clearly, this long and arduous process played an important role in the town's gradual transition from a colonial fishing station to what would become Canada's youngest capital a century later.