St. Luke’s Anglican Church in Placentia, NL is a Gothic Revival style church steeped in history. It was constructed in 1905 to replace a church that had been built the previous century. However, the place of St. Luke’s in the halls of history extend even further into the past, as this church is located on the grounds of the oldest Roman Catholic church in Newfoundland. The first religious building on this site was likely constructed sometime in the sixteenth or seventeenth century. It was no doubt a place of worship for the Basque fishermen who travelled from Spain and France to Placentia at the time. Later, another church was built in 1689 by the Récollets (Recollects) friars who established Our Lady of Angels parish.
Owing to this rich history, old Basques headstones are still located in the cemetery that surrounds St. Luke’s. Some are currently on display at the O’Reilly House Museum next door. Yet another grave reflects the colourful history of Placentia. It belongs to Richard Welsh, a well-known figure who hailed from New Ross, Ireland and who, in 1753, began what was to become a highly successful merchant firm in Placentia.
British royalty of the 18th century also left its mark on the site when Prince William (later King William IV of England) came to Placentia as a Magistrate. In 1786, he presented to the church, on behalf of his father, King George III, a silver Communion Service and a Coat of Arms. While the Service is housed at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in St. John’s, the Coat of Arms is still to be found hanging in St. Luke’s Anglican church. In fact, the same lectern, prayer desk and stool that were from the original church dated 1788 and are still used by today’s congregation.
The church bell is the first ever to be rung in the little wooden structure during its centuries of religious life in Placentia. It was donated to the congregation in 1950 by the Canadian National Railway, after having lived in an old steam locomotive train that ran between St. John’s and Port-aux-Basques.
During this time, with the resettlement programme that began in the 1950s, the church expected an additional number of parishioners. This was in addition to the influx of Americans who arrived when the military base in Argentia opened during the Second World War. Consequently, St. Luke’s was extended eastward to increase the seating capacity by about a third.
St. Luke’s Anglican Church has continued to illustrate its position in the current history of Placentia. For the past ten years, a Christmas concert entitled, “Winter Solstice” has showcased the talent and creative excellence of local artists of all ages. As well, funds were secured to open its doors for historical interpretation tours of the little church and its grounds during the 2018 summer months.