St. Paul’s was the first Catholic parish in Saskatoon, indeed, in the entire diocese. Since the 1880s, when the first Catholic settlers arrived in Saskatoon, Mass was celebrated by visiting Oblate priests in local Catholic’s houses. In 1901 land for the parish was purchased along the river, and on Sept 20th, 1903, the first St. Paul’s church building was blessed by Bishop Albert Pascal OMI who was the bishop of the then Apostolic Vicariate of Saskatchewan.
Following the boom years, the parish’s population quickly grew and a larger building was soon needed. Fundraising began in 1909, and by the following year the basement and floor were completed, so that on 25 July 1910, to coincide with the visit of Prime Minister Sir Wilfred Laurier, the cornerstone was laid. This stone can be seen outside to left of the main doors. This was also the date of the first Mass on the new floor. The following year, on August 6, our church building was formally dedicated by Archbishop L.P. Langevin OMI of the Archdiocese of St. Boniface. When the Diocese of Saskatoon was erected in 1933, the parish church of St. Paul’s was elevated to that of a Cathedral.
Following the initial construction, several minor and major renovations have happened to the church, most notably a major redesign of the interior in 1971, done out of an attempt at following the spirit of the Second Vatican Council. In 1976 a fire severely damaged the interior, which necessitated another renovation. Though a larger Cathedral was built for the diocese in 2012, St. Paul’s remains a Co-Cathedral, and is the mother parish of the diocese, as well the heart of the Church in the city.
There are many architectural features of our church to note. The building itself was designed by Joseph Ernest Fortin of the firm Maxwell Architects of Montreal, who helped in the design of the Saskatchewan Legislature building, and was the primary architect of both the Cathedrals in Regina and Gravelbourg. The design is Romanesque.
Our many stained-glass windows were the result of donations in memory of fallen soldiers of World War II. On the lower level there are various Saints depicted, starting with the Virgin Mary to the right of the altar. Continuing on that wall is St. Jean Brebeuf, one of the Canadian Martyrs, followed by St. Brigid, an early medieval abbess and co-patron of Ireland, and St. Thomas More, patron of the city’s Catholic College. On the rear wall, right next to our plaque honouring those who served in the first World War is St. Michael the Archangel, with the Latin phrase: “Quis Ut Deus” or “Who is like God?” which the literal translation of the name Michael. Carrying on along the rear wall we see St. Alphonsus Liguori, with the phrase “Copiosa apud Eum Redemptio,” “With Him is plentiful Redemption.” This is the motto of the Redemptorist Order, which St. Alphonsus founded, and which have been active in the diocese for many years. In the stairwell is St. Margaret of Scotland. We then see on the west wall St. John the Apostle, followed by St. Gertrude, a medieval mystic and proponent of the Sacred Heart.
Looking up the second level, we see scenes from the life of Christ. On the east side of the altar is the Resurrection, then moving toward the back, there is the scourging at the pillar, then the Last Supper, and then Jesus preaching to the children (Mt 19:14). On the west wall, starting at the loft, there is the Jesus with Peter, James, and John; Jesus as a child in Nazareth with the Holy Family; the Nativity; and the Annunciation.
Finally, at the back of the sanctuary, we see three windows. On the left is St. Peter, and on the right is St. Paul. In the middle is Jesus Christ, as depicted in Revelation 1:13-16. Beneath these are paintings of both Saints. These were donated by the parishioners of St. Andrew’s in Blaine Lake in 2019 when their parish was closing down. These were painted by Berthold Von Imhoff, a famous painter from the early 20th century.
Three statues of particular significance are found in our church. To the left of the altar is the life-sized image of St. Paul. In the rear of the church the main entrance is flanked by two bishops: St. Patrick and St. Boniface. All three of these are from our parish’s original high altar. Our parish is graced with three bells, which are rung before Mass, and though they are not visible, they are richly decorated with inscriptions, symbols, and significant people in the life of the Church at the time of their creation. Our organ, though damaged by fire, and rebuilt several times, is a Casavant originally installed in 1912.
A final piece of history and significance in our church building are the relics of the Saints. In our altar we are blessed to have relics of St. Marguerite Bourgeoys, St. Andre Bessette, St. Eugene de Mazenod, St. Kateri Tekakwitha, and St. Marguerite D’Youville, all of whom are Canadian saints. It is an interesting point that none of them were yet canonized as saints when their relics were interred here. And finally, most especially, the parish has a relic of St. Paul himself, housed in a gold reliquary. It is brought out for veneration on select feast days.
Our lowly parish and its humble beginnings
Quotes from other sources:
St. Paul’s Cathedral was designed by architect Joseph Fortin, who was commissioned to design five major Roman Catholic churches in Saskatchewan. Built in 1910, a fire in 1976 caused extensive damage to the building. Blackened timbers caused by the fire are still faintly visible through the church’s painted ceiling.
The cornerstone of St. Paul’s was laid on July 25, 1910 by Canadian Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier and a year later it was formally consecrated by Archbishop Adelard Langevin of St. Boniface, Manitoba. Originally built as parish church, it became a pro-cathedral in 1921, and elevated to a full cathedral in 1934 when the Diocese of Saskatoon was established. The Casavant organ was installed in 1912. The Institute for stained glass in Canada has documented the stained glass at St Paul’s Cathedral. The stained glass was added in 1945 to commemorate those who lost their lives in World War II and in 1976 for those that lost their lives to a fire.