The massive red and black slate roof is original and the bell tower is still used as a landmark by sailors on the St Lawrence River. Numerous stained glass windows, many by renowned 19C artist Harry Horwood, cast coloured mosaics on the interior. Horwood windows are prized in many Ontario churches as well as the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa.
The size and grandeur of St John’s fit the vision of a prosperous growing town. Fortunes were made forwarding goods through the rapids on the St Lawrence until modern transportation made this practice obsolete. Population growth slowed as the economy evolved from commercial and industrial to tourism. But mansions from these barons of commerce still decorate the town.
Struggling to maintain the historic structure while continuing to serve God and the community, in 2006 the congregation “right-sized” the interior by dividing it into hall and worship space. Historic elements were retained, including the ‘Lost Window’.
The Eliza Merrington chapel at St John’s was built in the 1930’s and featured a beautiful stained glass window depicting the Nativity, but with a side panel of modern children praising the newborn King. It was signed by the artist, Guido Nincheri – the Michelangelo of Montreal!
An interview with the artist’s grandson in 2003 revealed the window’s secrets. Roger Boccini Nincheri was surprised to learn the whereabouts of this piece. It was listed among his grandfather’s installations simply as “St. John’s Church, Prescott”. Curators had assumed it meant the counties of Prescott-Russell near the Quebec border but could never find it. It was deemed to be lost!
With the sale of the chapel in 2013, the window was restored and relocated inside the church to remain accessible to the public.
Roger revealed another secret – the little boy in the blue suit in the “modern” panel is him! His grandfather often used his face as a model when he was a lad.