Oxford and the St. Boniface Cathedral

George E. Findlay drew a left spire still under construction, SHSB 14892. Credit Library and Archives CanadaLaura Peers, Curator (Americas) and Reader in Material Anthropology, Pitt Rivers Museum and School of Anthropology made a request resently to the Centre du patrimoine in order to document further a quilled bag in the collection of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. 

Quilled bag in the National Maritime Museum collection AAA 2644

This quilled bag associated with George Back who accompanied several of Franklin's expeditions includes a representation of the St. Boniface Cathedral.  George Back came via Fort Alexander to the northwest in the summer of 1833 on his second expedition and returned to England in 1835. As the Cathedral representation has two spires, the question was to find out when the spires had been completed. Was the artist's representation inspired by the St. Boniface Cathedral.                       

Crédit: © National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London 

               AAA2644, image ref. D4891


In an 1847 drawing of the Cathedral and the Grey Nuns' convent (SHSB14892), George E. Findlay draws the left spire as being still under construction with the scaffolding quite visible. In 1851, John Wesley Bond writes that the cathedral is not yet completed: «The bare, roughly unplastered wall in front is cracked and shattered, and is surmounted by two steeples, one finished and containing a chime of bells, the bare timber of the other tower aloft, dark with age and nakedness ...».

St. Boniface Cathedral photograph by Humphrey Lloyd Hime in 1858

On the other hand, in a photograph of the Cathedral taken by Humphrey Lloyd Hime in 1858 (MSB 1293), the left spire is definitely completed. Paul Kane who also passed by St. Boniface in June 1846 shows in his painting of the Cathedral the two completed spires   (SHSB14884).

George Seton watercolor, 1857-1858 - SHSB 14893. Credit Library and Archives Canada

Finally George Seton who was stationed at Red River from 1857 to 1858, represents in his watercolor drawing of the Cathedral the twin towers as being also completed. (SHSB14893). We know that in 1860 this Cathedral was destroyed by fire.


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