Historic church likely to replace 150-year-old steeple after Fiona damage

One of Prince Edward Island’s historic churches may never be the same after the damage it sustained during post-tropical storm Fiona.

St. Martin of Tours Roman Catholic Church has been around for over 150 years and overlooks the Northumberland Strait in Cumberland. It is one of dozens of churches on the island listed on the Canadian Register of Historic Places.

The night Fiona crossed the island, the storm “ripped about half the roof off on one side and let the rain in,” said Phil Pitts, the church’s finance and property president.

He said one of the church neighbors had noticed the steeple during the storm and was worried it might blow away with the wind.

“The steeple structure has come loose,” Pitts said. “The masonry holding it came loose and was swaying and moving during the hurricane.”

Taken before the steeple was removed, a photo of the church shows where the masonry holding the steeple was damaged, causing it to sway. Parts of the roof were blown off during the storm. (Submitted by Phil Pitts)

After Fiona, the church decided to remove the steeple, which has since rested on the lawn near the church parking lot.

Pitts said the church was small but had been a “big part of the community” for a long time.

Although he still doesn’t know how much it will cost to complete all the repairs, he said he knows it will be quite significant.

β€œHe will probably never be the same after the hurricane,” he said.

Major repairs needed

Repairs would also include rebuilding the part of the roof that was blown off and the masonry where the steeple was removed.

After an initial conversation with a construction company, Pitts said it’s highly likely that a new, smaller steeple will need to be installed in place of the one that was taken down.

“It’s such a shame because it was a landmark in the community,” he said.

So far, the church has been able to hire a company to remove all carpets and carry out dehumidification work. But Pitts said with contractors so busy after the storm, he didn’t know when all the damage might be repaired.

st martin of tours
The church is now condemned and will be closed for the next few months. Members hoping to attend church services will need to find another venue, says Phil Pitts, president of finance and property for the church. (Submitted by Phil Pitts)

In the meantime, the church was unable to meet for the service, and the building will remain boarded up for the next few months.

“We hope this is a temporary loss, but we will definitely miss her this winter,” Pitts said.

Despite the loss, Pitts said the church community came together and was very understanding.

“They accept the fact that we won’t be there for a while, but we’ll go ahead and prepare for it.”

Ideally, Pitts said he hopes the church will be repaired and ready to meet again for service this spring.


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