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"History of Churches in Rollo Bay" redirects here.

 St. Alexis church is a Roman Catholic church situated in Rollo Bay, Prince Edward Island. 

Background Edit

Burke indicates that there had been a small church in Bay Fortune during the time of French occupation, but that it fell to ruin before the Acadians had arrived there[1].

These same Acadians eventually purchased land in Rollo Bay, and for a time church services were held in the homes of the faithful. In particular is mentioned Honore Nuchel, who was a blacksmith but had no family[1]. There first priest recorded to have served these families was Monsieur Magdand. After him came a Monsieur Tedru, whose letters to the Bishop of Quebec reside in the archives of the diocese of Charlottetown[1].

Abbe de Calonne served after Tedru, then Abbe Gabriel Champion, before finally Father McEachern (who would later become Bishop) was placed in charge of the area and it was under his direction that a little log chapel was built in 1804[1]. It stood close to the Rollo Bay shore, beside the old burial ground which remains to this day*[1]. At this time Rollo Bay was known as Anse a Matieu.

It should be made clear that the stones which remain in this old burial ground are not from this original log church; for these graves were made of sandstone and have been worn away. The graves that exist there today are from the second church.

There were 18 families in the parish at this time, and they all assisted in building this church, which measured 30 feet long, 20 feet wide, and 12 feet high. The church was named St. Alexis, as it was on July 17th 1812 that Bishop Plessis visited Rollo Bay, which is the feast of Saint Alexis[2].

Little is known at this time of the second church which was built there. It was built in 1824. The builder was Bartlett Dunphy[1]. The fate of the 1824 church is unknown to the researcher at this time.

1853 ChurchEdit

Notes are somewhat scarce regarding the transition between the 1824 church and the 1853 church. However, it is recorded that a church was constructed in 1853 by Lawrence Murphy and Lawrence Peters, on the grounds of the present day church near the intersection of Route 2 and Route 330. This church was sixty feet long, forty-two feet wide, and the height of the walls were twenty-one feet. As Burke writes, "In 1870-2 a chancel vestry and tower were added to it. The High Altar which came from Montreal is delicately through profusely coloured in blue and gold with touches of pink, grey and brown. The frontal is of carton pierre, a representation of the Last Supper in bas relief. Upon the altar are statues of Our Lady and St. Joseph which are painted to harmonize with their background, and on either side brass brackets support adoring angels.

Above the altar is a very fine stained glass window representing the Holy Family. The Holy Water Font is of carved free stone; upon a temporary altar erected to the Blessed Virgin stands an old but richly gilt tabernacle which along with a set of vestments, candlesticks and consor came from France to French St. Peters in the year 1840. They were ordered by Father John McDonald of Glenaladale who at that time served in the eastern end of the Island, and were brought over from St. Pierre in the schooner of Captain John D'Aigle."[1]

In 1930 it was moved across the road to serve as a hall. It no longer stands.[3]

Father Walker was the first resident priest.

Present Day Church Edit

It is then that we arrive at the church which stands today. It was constructed in 1930, and was designed by James Edward Harris, nephew to William Critchlow Harris.[4][5] It closely resembles St. Mary's Church in Indian River, which was designed by William Critchlow Harris. St. Alexis Church seats about 400 people.

As Hunters remarks, "the building was given a pair of towers at the front, a smaller one on the right and the large bell tower and steeple on the left. Note that, somewhat unusually, the towers are both octagonal from the ground to the cross atop. In typical Harris style, the towers, especially, were given much attention to detail, including a double row of dentils at the belfry, hoods over the openings and decorative shingle work. Above the belfry are a total of sixteen small gable roofed Gothic arched openings, two on each of the eight faces"[4].

In August of 2015 it was announced that the church would be closing, due to dwindling attendance. It was estimated that weekly it was receiving about 80-100 worshippers[6]. Costly repairs needed for the furnace and the roof were also cited, as a reason for closure. These repairs were reported to be in the range of $70 000.[6] Father Jim Willick was the last priest there, and the funeral of Peter Chaisson was the last to be celebrated there.[6]

Cemetery Edit

The cemetery is located to the east of the graveyard.

Relics Edit

A number of relics are housed in the parish. One is a chalice which was presented by Abbe de Calonne to the parish in the days of the log cabin church. The stem of this chalice is silver, and the cup is gold[1]. Another relic is an engraved missal which reads:

Antiverniae
Ex Officina Plantimiana
Balthasaris Moreti
M.D.C. XLV
Roughly translated, this indicates that this book was made at the Plantin Press of Antwerp, which was one of the focal centers of printed books in the sixteenth century. The name Balthasar Moretus (Latinised on the chalice) is in reference to the owner of the Plantin Press, Balthasar Moretus. The year indicated is 1645.

The Rollo Bay Bell Edit

The famous relic of St. Alexis parish is the Rollo Bay Bell. In order to sure accuracy, the description of the bell and its related events had been copied here from Burke, verbatim[1]:

"The dearest treasure of Rollo Bay church however, is its bell. Long ago in the last century when there was no Mr. Phinsoll to protect the rights of those who go down to the sea in ships, the English government being determined to get rid of the French inhabitants of the then populous little town of St. Pierre situated upon the harbour of that name, decided upon a plan akin to that taken by the Sultan when he quietly drops obnoxious individuals into the Bosphorus, and sent three hundred of the French adrift in an leaky vessel avowedly with the intention of transporting them to France.

Before leaving, these poor people as was the usual custom of the Acadians, buried such things as they considered too sacred to fall into the hands of the English, among these was their church bell. In the year 1870 a Mr. Barry of St. Peters Harbour while ploughing in his field, struck some object that gave forth a metallic sound, and which proved to be the bell of the old church of St. Pierre which had lain unharmed in the earth for over one hundred years.

Mr. Barry presented his treasure trove to the parishioners of Morell who exchanged it for a new bell, with the people of Rollo Bay. The old relic was rapturously welcomed by the descendants of its first owners and was killed by kindness.

Everybody wanted to ring it, and everybody did ring it, in consequence it was broken and had to be recast. In 1882 it was placed in the tower of St. Alexis Church, where it rings the Angelus as of old to the great joy of all the faithful of the mission."

The bell bears the following inscription:

Jesu + Marie + Joseph + P. Cosse m'a fait, - Michelin 1723. In 1870 Je fus retire des ruines d'une Eglise d'un Ancien Village Acadien I.P.E. En 1882 les paroisieus de Rollo Bay me firent refondre par meneely et Cie de West Troy N.Y. en souvenir de leurs ancetrees de L'Acadie

Translated, this reads as:

Jesus + Mary + Joseph

P. Cosse made me, - Michelin 1723.

In 1870 I was removed from the ruins of a Church of an Ancient Acadian Village in PEI. In 1882 the parishes of Rollo Bay had me recast by West Troy Company N.Y. in memory of their Acadian ancestors.

This bell continues to hang in the belfry to this day.

Notes Edit

*It should be made clear that the stones which remain in this old burial ground are not from this original log church; for these graves were made of sandstone and have crumbled away. The graves that exist there today are from the second church.

ReferencesEdit

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 Burke, Revered A. E. Histories of Parishes of Prince Edward Island. Charlottetown. 1964. Accessed via UPEI. 7 March 2017.
  2. Townshend, Adele. Ten Farms Become A Town. Town of Souris: 1986. Print.
  3. Points East Coastal Drive. St. Alexis Church. 8 March 2017. Web.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Hunters, BK. St. Alexis Roman Catholic Church. Waymarking.com. 8 March 2017. Web.
  5. CBC News. St. Alexis Church in Rollo Bay prepares to mark last mass. 7 August 2015. Web
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Sharrat, Steve. Rollo Bay Catholic Church Closing. The Guardian. 6 August 2015. Web.