Majestic Ruins in Williamstown

Majestic Ruins in Williamstown

On a late summer day we packed the cameras and headed to eastern Ontario for a photo shoot at the ruins of the historic St. Raphaels church in Williamstown.

Constructed by Scottish pioneers between 1815 and 1821, it was one of the earliest Roman Catholic churches in English-speaking Canada. Built without any interior columns, it provided an unobstructed view for a thousand people.

Over the next couple of decades, the walls continued to deteriorate and by the early 1990s it was too dangerous for anyone to go near them.

In 1993 the Friends of the Ruins St. Raphaels was formed and purchased the ruins from the township for a dollar. They began a fundraising drive to restore the walls and by 2005 had raised $1.4 million, enough to completely stabilize the structure, which had been declared a national historic site in 1999.

John Ashurst, a heritage conservationist from Bournemouth University, visited St. Raphaels and described the ashlar-facing masonry as “of the finest workmanship” and the edifice itself as “the best monument of its type in Canada”.

St. Raphaels is now open to the public. It’s an impressive spectacle, and worth the drive if you live in eastern Ontario.