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

The steeple on St. Martin of Tours Roman Catholic Church was taken down after it was seen swaying during post-tropical storm Fiona. Damage to the building was extensive. (Submitted by Phil Pitts - image credit)
The steeple on St. Martin of Tours Roman Catholic Church was taken down after it was seen swaying during post-tropical storm Fiona. Damage to the building was extensive. (Submitted by Phil Pitts - image credit)

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

St. Martin of Tours Roman Catholic Church has stood for more than 150 years, overlooking the Northumberland Strait in Cumberland. It's one of the dozens of churches across the Island listed on the Canadian Register of Historic Places.

The night Fiona tore through the Island, the storm "basically ripped about half the roof off of one side and allowed the rain in," said Phil Pitts, the church's chair of finance and property.

He said one of the church's neighbours noticed the steeple during the storm and was worried it was going to blow off in the wind.

"The steeple structure became loose," Pitts said. "The brickwork that was holding it became loose and was actually swaying and moving during the hurricane."

Submitted by Phil Pitts
Submitted by Phil Pitts

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

Pitts said the church is small but has been a "big part of the community" for a long time.

While he still doesn't know how much it will cost to do all the repairs, he said he knows it will be fairly significant.

"It probably will never look the same after the hurricane," he said.

Extensive repairs needed

Repairs would also include rebuilding the part of the roof that was blown off and the brickwork 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 have to be installed instead 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 the carpets and conduct dehumidifying work. But Pitts said with contractors so busy after the storm, he isn't sure when all the damage could be fixed.

Submitted by Phil Pitts
Submitted by Phil Pitts

In the meantime, the church has not been able to meet for service, and the building will remain boarded up for the next few months.

"We're hoping it's a temporary loss, but it'll be certainly missed this winter," Pitts said.

Despite the loss, Pitts said the church community has come together and has been very understanding.

"They accept the fact that we will not be in there for a while, but we will forge ahead and have it prepared."

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