In 1955, the Basilica-Cathedral celebrated the 100th anniversary of its consecration. The celebration was marked by the designation of the Cathedral to the official rank of Minor Basilica by Pope Pius XII and a visit by His Eminence Most Reverend James Charles Cardinal McGuigan, Bishop of Toronto and the first Cardinal to make an official visit to Newfoundland. At the time, this was only the ninth church to achieve this rank.

To prepare for the centenary celebrations in June of 1955, there was a great deal of restoration work completed leading up to this date including the installation of new windows, new heating and lighting, and the Marian Chapel, a small, decorative room located in the back of the Cathedral with a seating capacity of 110. As well, refurbishments were made to the organ, the bells, the Stations of the Cross, and the Pontifical Throne.

Arguably the most notable event that coincided with the centenary celebrations was the arrival of 4000 Portuguese fishermen in St. John’s harbour on May 27, 1955. They had arrived with a nine-piece Shrine depicting Our Lady of Fatima to be presented to the people of St. John’s and accepted by Arch Read More
In 1955, the Basilica-Cathedral celebrated the 100th anniversary of its consecration. The celebration was marked by the designation of the Cathedral to the official rank of Minor Basilica by Pope Pius XII and a visit by His Eminence Most Reverend James Charles Cardinal McGuigan, Bishop of Toronto and the first Cardinal to make an official visit to Newfoundland. At the time, this was only the ninth church to achieve this rank.

To prepare for the centenary celebrations in June of 1955, there was a great deal of restoration work completed leading up to this date including the installation of new windows, new heating and lighting, and the Marian Chapel, a small, decorative room located in the back of the Cathedral with a seating capacity of 110. As well, refurbishments were made to the organ, the bells, the Stations of the Cross, and the Pontifical Throne.

Arguably the most notable event that coincided with the centenary celebrations was the arrival of 4000 Portuguese fishermen in St. John’s harbour on May 27, 1955. They had arrived with a nine-piece Shrine depicting Our Lady of Fatima to be presented to the people of St. John’s and accepted by Archbishop Skinner at the Basilica. The scene of thousands of Portuguese fishermen and ship-owners proceeding their way to the steps of the Basilica is a memorable one, commemorating the strong economic fishing ties between Portugal and Newfoundland.

© Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. John's 2006

Altar dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima 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


Year of Joy

The scene of thousands of Portuguese fishermen and ship-owners proceeding their way to the steps of the Basilica in 1955 is a memorable one.

The sun broke through the overcast sky on that May morning when the Portuguese fishermen carried the statue on their shoulders, through the streets of old St. John’s. As they went, five thousand strong, their voices were raised in song: "All hail to Mary of Fatima!". (singing) Led by their padre and the officers of the fleet, the procession moved into the cathedral yard, and then towards the great doors of the historic cathedral, its permanent resting place, an alcove near the sanctuary.

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


Crowd in Celebration

Celebratory crowd marching through the streets in 1955 for the Basilica's 100th anniversary.

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


Portugeuse Fishermen

Portugeuse fishermen marching up Military Road in St. John's on May 28, 1955.

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


In 1984 the Basilica was designated a National Historic Site by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, and in October 1988 the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador designated the Basilica as a Registered Heritage Structure.
In 1984 the Basilica was designated a National Historic Site by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, and in October 1988 the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador designated the Basilica as a Registered Heritage Structure.

© Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. John's 2006

Person of National Historical Significance

The Designation of Bishop Michael Anthony Fleming as a Person of National Historical Significance.

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 Pope arrived in St. John’s at 12:30 pm on Sept 12, 1984, his first visit to the province and a milestone in the history of Catholicism in Newfoundland. After meeting with a number of church officials and dignitaries he took time to meet with the immense number of parishioners who showed up to greet him.

It was raining when the Pope arrived at Quidi Vidi Lake for mass - though this did not deter the estimated 80,000 people that came to participate. With over 100 priests, 1000 communion ministers, and a choir and 60 piece orchestra, this mass was the largest ever celebrated in Newfoundland.

Later that day, the Pope gave an address to the educators of the Roman Catholic Schools in the province at the Basilica Cathedral.
The Pope arrived in St. John’s at 12:30 pm on Sept 12, 1984, his first visit to the province and a milestone in the history of Catholicism in Newfoundland. After meeting with a number of church officials and dignitaries he took time to meet with the immense number of parishioners who showed up to greet him.

It was raining when the Pope arrived at Quidi Vidi Lake for mass - though this did not deter the estimated 80,000 people that came to participate. With over 100 priests, 1000 communion ministers, and a choir and 60 piece orchestra, this mass was the largest ever celebrated in Newfoundland.

Later that day, the Pope gave an address to the educators of the Roman Catholic Schools in the province at the Basilica Cathedral.

© Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. John's 2006

Pope at Mass

The Pope presiding over mass at the Basilica during his visit.

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


Pope in St. John's

The Pope addressing the crowd at Quidi Vidi, St. John's.

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


200th Anniversary

Official crest for the 200th anniversary of Catholicism in Newfoundland. .

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


Though the city of St. John’s has grown considerably since the consecration of the Basilica in 1855, the Cathedral remains a focal point for many cultural functions in the community, and a constant draw for tourists visiting old St. John’s.
Though the city of St. John’s has grown considerably since the consecration of the Basilica in 1855, the Cathedral remains a focal point for many cultural functions in the community, and a constant draw for tourists visiting old St. John’s.

© Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. John's 2006

St. John's Harbour

A view St. John's Harbour and "The Narrows" from the East Tower of 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


Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • describe the celebrations that took place in 1955 to celebrated the 100th anniversary of the cathedral
  • illustrate why the site became a national Historic Site
  • identify the important visitor to the congregation in 1984

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