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Heritage Community Foundation Presents
Alberta Online Encyclopedia

No. 65: Father Lacombe Chapel in St. Albert

Ce texte a été publié en anglais et n'est pas disponible en français.

Alberta was still very much a frontier in 1861 when Father Lacombe built a log chapel at his catholic mission just north of Fort Edmonton.

According to historian Dorothy Field, the chapel still exists in the community known today as St. Albert.

It's special because it's the oldest remaining building in Alberta. It's 137 years old now, although it's not on it's original site, and various parts have been replaced, it's quite unique.

It's built of squared logs. They were formed with broadaxe by hand, and put together using a post and sill construction technique.

At the time it was constructed, the log chapel signaled changing times for the region.

Originally there was a small community of Métis who were served by the Roman Catholic priest, Father Lacombe, who also actually lived in the chapel for a short while after it was built.

When Father Lacombe first built the Mission Church there was nothing in St. Albert, but he quickly encouraged various families from the surrounding area to move to close proximity.

And population kept growing, so that by the 1870s, there was in fact about 1000 people living in St. Albert, and it was the biggest community west of St. Boniface on the prairies.

The community soon outgrew the little chapel, but it was never dismantled.

I think the reason that it survived is that it has been useful. Originally, when the function as a church was replaced in 1871 by a newly constructed cathedral, the chapel was used for a variety of purposes. One, as a sacristy, that was where they kept the vestments, and the priest would get ready to perform a service in the church, and, subsequently, as a storage place and a granary.

Then in 1927, it was converted for use as a museum, and had that function for many years.

The Father Lacombe Chapel can be viewed at the Roman Catholic Mission in St. Albert.

On the Heritage Trail,

I'm Cheryl Croucher.

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