Alberta's Provincial Historic Sites, Interpretive Centres and Museums
Father Lacombe Chapel

The Restoration

…the greatest glory in a building is not in its stones, nor its gold. Its glory is in its Age, and in that deep sense of voicefulness, of stern watching, of mysterious sympathy, nay, even of approval or condemnation, which we feel in walls that have long been washed by the passing waves of humanity.

Quote- John Ruskin, The Seven Lamps of Architecture

Hastily erected and modest in size, the Father Lacombe Chapel quickly became inadequate to meet the needs of the growing settlement. In 1870, a second church was constructed in St. Albert, and Father Lacombe Chapel was no longer used as a house of worship. Over the succeeding years, the building would serve a variety of purposes, including vestry for the second church and storage building. It would be moved around to a variety of locations on the mission site. This relocation and repurposing of buildings like the Father Lacombe Chapel was common in frontier settings, where a practical, unsentimental approach to buildings prevailed. By 1929, Father Lacombe Chapel had been encased in brick as a preservation measure and was being used as a museum containing artifacts from the Oblates western missions.

In the 1980s, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Grandin Province, approached the Government of Alberta about the possibility of restoring Father Lacombe Chapel to its original appearance. The building’s construction methods were carefully documented, and archival documents and photographs were used to determine its historic appearance. Then the brick cover was removed. Rotten and insect-damaged logs were disposed of and new timbers were squared using traditional methods. The building was restored and adorned with period-appropriate artifacts.

The chapel is Alberta’s oldest extant building. In 1983, it was designated a Provincial Historic Resource. Situated on Mission Hill, the Father Lacombe Chapel is a landmark in St. Albert and an icon of our province’s early history.

Last reviewed/revised: March 18, 2016
Lacombe Museum

Lacombe Museum, [1930s].
Photo: Provincial Archives of Alberta, OB1861

Log Restoration

Log Restoration.
Photo: Alberta Culture, Historic Resources Management, 45-Restoration

Restored Chapel.
Photo: Alberta Culture, Historic Resources Management, 46-Restoration2