Dartmouth, Nova Scotia

Saint Peter Roman Catholic Parish

Our description of the Church would be incomplete without mention of the statute of Saint Peter which has been placed in a niche that was designed for this purpose near the base of the bell tower.

It is fashioned from linden wood.

The Bible and the "Keys of the Kingdom" are the traditional symbols of Saint Peter.

Statue of Saint Peter

The carved wood in frontal pieces is teak. The surrounding boards are of an ancient white pine.

These artifacts constitute an important link with the early history of the Church in Dartmouth and Halifax. They symbolize and recall the great faith that must have been required to build a church in Dartmouth in the early part of the nineteenth century.

The two panels, one on each side of the statue of Mary were part of the original altar in the first Saint Peter's. When Father Underwood began the building of the second Saint Peter's in 1892, this same altar was used in the lower part of the church. In 1896 the Church was officially opened and the old altar was preserve downstairs in what later became Saint Ann's Chapel.

The fire of 1966 did not get into the lower chapel but in the salvage operations all that could be saved were the two panels of this altar. Dozens of coats of white paint were removed and the two wood panels were clearly outlined. They are believed to be of Flemish origin, probably of the seventeenth century. One of the panels depicts the "Salvator Mundi" (Saviour of the world) and the other is an image of Saint Peter.

The Frontal Pieces from the First Altar

The hands of the statue are slightly charred. The blackish effect is the result of the fire. Unfortunately, the darkening was not even, so a light spray has been used to make it more uniform. The present chapel was built specifically for this purpose, to house this statue, for it was felt that Our Lady guarded the parish from any loss of life.

The "Black Madonna"- Statue of Mary

The second Church of Saint Peter was destroyed by a fire that began about two o'clock in the afternoon of December 28, 1966. A statue of Mary stood near a side altar on the right side of the old church.

The tabernacle was preserved from the previous church and was a gift of the people of Saint Peter's, dedicated to the memory of Father George Courtney. It was carried out of the burning church by a Dartmouth fireman who risked his life in order to save the Blessed Sacrament. It becomes a connection with the former Church.

The Blessed Sacrament Chapel

The Baptismal Font

Located inside the main entrance. The baptismal font is sculpted from the same granite as other appointments in the Church. It is supplied with running water to give the symbolism of "living water". This font is used less frequently in recent years, now that baptisms are often celebrated during mass, and because this area can accommodate only a small gathering.

Stone at Saint Peter

The Altar

Holy Water Fonts

Close-up from lower left-center of tapestry

The colouration is taken partly from the Nova Scotia tartan, but the peculiar yellowish brown comes from the lichen that grows on the rocks around Dover. Mr. Back took several samples home with him to Montreal and numerous photographs in order to obtain the correct shade. The weaving of the cloth was done by a Mrs. Thomas of Montreal and the stitching was done by several hands, but to a large extent, it is the work of Mrs. Back, wife of the designer.

The center of the tapestry shows the barque, or boat, of Saint Peter. It rides on stormy seas, but all the hazards are pointed down because nothing can ever sink Peter's ship. On the deck of the ship are the people of God with their hands raised in prayer. The ship moves toward the heavenly port which is represented by perpendicular lines of brightly coloured cloth. The main mast of the ship is the cross of Christ under which the ship sails. It is slightly slanted to again express the difficulties encountered in stormy weather. Above the waters and the ship is the Holy Spirit, represented by the sun. The uneven rays depict the times when the movement of the Holy Spirit in the Church is more obvious than others. The gulls flying about are part of the Nova Scotia scene. They are always on our water and were fittingly brought into the tapestry.

The Worship Space

When Mr. Andre Robitaille, of the firm Desmarais and Robitaille, and Mr. Frederick Back, a Montreal designer, were invited to Dartmouth to consider the furniture for the Church, they were first brought to the fishing village of Dover and placed on a large rock well out in the water. They were instructed to bring the atmosphere of Nova Scotia into the new Church of Saint Peter. The mission of Saint Peter, a fisherman by trade, and also his certain love of the water were considered.

The solid granite altar, the lectern, and the baptismal font are all the result of this coastal adventure.. The fact that these three elements are made from granite provides a unity between them. We gather as baptized people around the two tables of the Word and Eucharist. Interestingly, the Greek meaning of "Peter" is rock.

The Tapestry

The chair of the presider is set against a tapestry that creates a beautiful setting for the sanctuary area of the church. Mr. Back, a Canadian artist, was chosen by Desmarais and Robitaille to undertake the work of its design. He has had an outstanding career in the Arts. At nineteen, Mr. Back won the Grand Prix of the Beaux Arts of Rennes, France. He was professor of Decoration, Documentation and Drawing at the School of Applied Arts in Montreal and was the professor of Decoration and Illustration at the Beaux Arts of Montreal. He has received numerous commissions as illustrator for television programs, including "L'Heure du concert" and "Concert pour la Jeunesse". He is the creator of a mural on the history of the cinema in Place Victoria, B.C. He has done considerable stained glass window design in the province of Quebec.

Saint Peter's is the mother Church of Dartmouth, for from it several parishes have grown. There are now seven Catholic churches in the City. Space does not permit a description of the other buildings that have contributed to the history of Saint Peter's over the years, the rectory, the convent, and the parish schools. This article is intended only to provide a description of significant elements of the present church.

The lectern, from which the scriptures are proclaimed, is given prominence, the baptistry has been placed at the "main" entrance, and the Blessed Sacrament has been given its own chapel area. These innovations which were are precedented in the ancient church, were made to accommodate the reforms of the Mass that were requested by the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965).

Its form is circular with the altar placed in the exact centre of the worship space. Including the galleries, the church can accommodate almost a thousand people and yet there are only nine rows of pews.

The third Saint Peter's, the present structure, was consecrated by Archbishop James M. Hayes on June 29, 1969, the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. While maintaining architectural continuity with the old façade, the interior of the new building is vastly different.

The Current Church