By the late nineteenth century, the Basilica-Cathedral in St. John’s was one of the largest repositories of Irish and European neoclassical and naturalistic sacred art, statuary and craftsmanship in the Western Hemisphere.

Although the Basilica-Cathedral was formally consecrated by Bishop John Thomas Mullock in 1855, there have been several large supplementary projects undertaken in the years since. The gradual completion of the Cathedral has progressed steadily over the years amidst celebrations of various milestones in the history of Irish Catholics in Newfoundland including the Basilica centenary celebrations in 1955, the arrival of Pope John Paul II in 1984, and the 150th anniversary of the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Newfoundland, celebrated just this past summer.
By the late nineteenth century, the Basilica-Cathedral in St. John’s was one of the largest repositories of Irish and European neoclassical and naturalistic sacred art, statuary and craftsmanship in the Western Hemisphere.

Although the Basilica-Cathedral was formally consecrated by Bishop John Thomas Mullock in 1855, there have been several large supplementary projects undertaken in the years since. The gradual completion of the Cathedral has progressed steadily over the years amidst celebrations of various milestones in the history of Irish Catholics in Newfoundland including the Basilica centenary celebrations in 1955, the arrival of Pope John Paul II in 1984, and the 150th anniversary of the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Newfoundland, celebrated just this past summer.

© Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. John's 2006

Stained Glass

Stained Glass windows in the Basilica.

Archives of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. John's.
Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. John's.

© Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. John's 2006


Stations of the Cross

One of the fourteen Stations of the Cross depicting the final days of the life of Jesus Christ, located in the Basilica.

Archives of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. John's.
Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. John's.

© Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. John's 2006


Stained Glass Windows

Stained Glass windows in the Basilica.

Archives of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. John's.
Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. John's.

© Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. John's 2006


Since the Middle Ages, the depictions of religious scenes and people on coloured glass have been used to convey the teachings of the faith. In the 1800’s, visual imagery played a crucial role in one’s understanding of Catholic iconography since the majority of Newfoundlanders did not read nor have access to theological manuscripts. Today, stained glass is more commonly viewed as an art form.

From the central point in the Basilica one has the best view of the twenty-eight beautiful stained glass windows adorning the upper walls dating back to the 1880’s and 1890’s.

On the south wall of the Basilica above the organ gallery, stands the most historically impressive of the stained glass windows - the Pallium window - erected to commemorate the establishment of the Ecclesiastical Province of Newfoundland and the conferring of the pallium on Archbishop Howley on June 23, 1905.
Since the Middle Ages, the depictions of religious scenes and people on coloured glass have been used to convey the teachings of the faith. In the 1800’s, visual imagery played a crucial role in one’s understanding of Catholic iconography since the majority of Newfoundlanders did not read nor have access to theological manuscripts. Today, stained glass is more commonly viewed as an art form.

From the central point in the Basilica one has the best view of the twenty-eight beautiful stained glass windows adorning the upper walls dating back to the 1880’s and 1890’s.

On the south wall of the Basilica above the organ gallery, stands the most historically impressive of the stained glass windows - the Pallium window - erected to commemorate the establishment of the Ecclesiastical Province of Newfoundland and the conferring of the pallium on Archbishop Howley on June 23, 1905.

© Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. John's 2006

Stained Glass

The picture represents three great Prelates of the Church, vested in pontifical robes.

Archives of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. John's.
Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. John's.

© Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. John's 2006


Archbishop Michael Francis Howley is the central figure, wearing the Pallium. To his right are Bishop McDonald of Harbour Grace and Bishop McNeil of St. George’s.

There are over twenty-five figures in the window, including clergymen, dignitaries, altar boys, cross-bearers, etc. The outline of the High Altar forms the background, and an inscription across the window reads, "Commemorative of the Conferring of the Pallium, June 23, 1905". At the bottom of the window are shown the Arms of the three Dioceses, which form the Ecclesiastical Province of Newfoundland.
Archbishop Michael Francis Howley is the central figure, wearing the Pallium. To his right are Bishop McDonald of Harbour Grace and Bishop McNeil of St. George’s.

There are over twenty-five figures in the window, including clergymen, dignitaries, altar boys, cross-bearers, etc. The outline of the High Altar forms the background, and an inscription across the window reads, "Commemorative of the Conferring of the Pallium, June 23, 1905". At the bottom of the window are shown the Arms of the three Dioceses, which form the Ecclesiastical Province of Newfoundland.

© Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. John's 2006

Michael Francis Howley

Michael Francis Howley, Bishop of Newfoundland 1895-1914 .

Archives of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. John's.
Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. John's.

© Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. John's 2006


The Veiled Virgin was created in flawless Carrera marble by the renowned Italian sculptor Giovanni Strazza (1818-1875) in Rome. Other examples of Strazza’s work may be seen in the Vatican Museums and at the Archbishop’s Palace in Milan. The St. John’s Veiled Virgin was described by The Newfoundlander (4 December 1856) as the second such work by Strazza resembling a veiled woman. There are similar marble busts depicting veiled women in Canada, the United States, Ireland and England. None, however, are as meticulously crafted as the Newfoundland Veiled Virgin by Strazza: the facial features and the braids in the hair are clearly visible through the stone veil.

On 4 December, 1856 Bishop John Thomas Mullock recorded in his diary: "Received safely from Rome, a beautiful statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary in marble, by Strazza. The face is veiled, and the figure and features are all seen. It is a perfect gem of art." The Veiled Virgin remained at the Episcopal Palace adjacent to the Roman Catholic Cathedral in St. John’s until 1862, when the Bishop presented the bust to the Superior of Presentation Convent, Mother Mary Magdalene O’Shaug Read More
The Veiled Virgin was created in flawless Carrera marble by the renowned Italian sculptor Giovanni Strazza (1818-1875) in Rome. Other examples of Strazza’s work may be seen in the Vatican Museums and at the Archbishop’s Palace in Milan. The St. John’s Veiled Virgin was described by The Newfoundlander (4 December 1856) as the second such work by Strazza resembling a veiled woman. There are similar marble busts depicting veiled women in Canada, the United States, Ireland and England. None, however, are as meticulously crafted as the Newfoundland Veiled Virgin by Strazza: the facial features and the braids in the hair are clearly visible through the stone veil.

On 4 December, 1856 Bishop John Thomas Mullock recorded in his diary: "Received safely from Rome, a beautiful statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary in marble, by Strazza. The face is veiled, and the figure and features are all seen. It is a perfect gem of art." The Veiled Virgin remained at the Episcopal Palace adjacent to the Roman Catholic Cathedral in St. John’s until 1862, when the Bishop presented the bust to the Superior of Presentation Convent, Mother Mary Magdalene O’Shaughnessy. Bishop Mullock’s sister, Sister Mary di Pazzi Mullock, was a professed member of that community, and later its Superior.

Strazza’s sculpting confidently revives the ingenuity of the Baroque, and represents a technical triumph which surpasses that of any other work of art found in 19th century Newfoundland. The Veiled Virgin also testifies to the close linkages of the Irish Catholic community in St. John’s with cultural and nationalist movements of the day in Europe.

© Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. John's 2006

Veiled Virgin

The Veiled Virgin was brought from Rome to St. John's in 1856 its current home is the Presentation Convent, St. John's.

Sculpture: Giovanni Strazza (1818-1875)
Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. John's.

© Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. John's 2006


Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • identify some of the artwork that are scattered in the cathedral

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