Christ Church, Her Majesty's Chapel Royal of the Mohawk National Historic Site of Canada
(© Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada, 1995.)
52 South Church Street, Deseronto, Ontario
Historic Sites and Monuments Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. H-4)
1843 to 1843
Event, Person, Organization:
Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte
Christ Church, Her Majesty's Chapel Royal of the Mohawk
Research Report Number:
Existing plaque: 52 South Church Street, Deseronto, Ontario
This handsome church attests to the remarkable historic alliance of the Mohawk people with the Crown. Loyal Mohawks, who sacrificed much in their support of the British cause, came here after the American Revolution. They built a log church nearby, which Christ Church replaced in 1843. Royal gifts over the years have honoured this extraordinary relationship and in 1904 King Edward VII conferred the title, “His Majesty’s Chapel.” This Gothic Revival church was severely damaged by fire in 1906. Restored at Mohawk expense, the chapel stands today as a symbol of their enduring regard for the Crown.
Description of Historic Place
Christ Church, Her Majesty's Chapel Royal of the Mohawk National Historic Site of Canada is centrally located on a rise of land overlooking the Bay of Quinte, in Tyendinaga, Ontario. Surrounded by a cemetery and trees, this handsome small-scale Gothic Revival style building, features stained-glass windows and a short spire. A low gable roof and a square bell tower sit atop exterior walls made of local limestone. The windows are made of wood panels or stained glass with pointed neo-gothic arches. Official recognition refers to the church on its footprint.
Christ Church, Her Majesty’s Chapel Royal of the Mohawks was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1995. It is recognized because: it is intimately linked with the establishment of the Mohawk peoples in Ontario; as one of two Royal Chapels in Ontario, it represents the historic alliance between the British Crown and the Mohawk peoples as well as their historic and ongoing contribution to Canada.
The heritage value of this site resides in its historical associations as illustrated by physical properties of the church and particular historical artifacts it houses. The American Revolution, in which certain Mohawk groups had fought on the British side, left the Mohawk people dispossessed of their lands, in what is now New York State. Mohawks loyal to the British Crown had come to Tyendinaga in the Bay of Quinte to settle land promised to them by the British for their loyalty and allegiance.
The church, replacing an earlier log structure, was designed by John Howard, and was funded by the Mohawk people. The church’s prominent location on a rise of land overlooking the Bay of Quinte, chosen by the community itself, symbolizes its power for the Mohawk. It was designated a Royal Chapel in 1906, meaning it is set aside for the use of the reigning monarch. Although the spire and most of the interior were destroyed in a 1906 fire, the stone walls survived, and the remainder of the church was faithfully reconstructed by the Mohawk. It continues to house artefacts which symbolize both Mohawk history and the alliance between the Mohawk peoples and the British Crown.
Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, July 1995.
Key elements contributing to the heritage value of this site include: its simple, open speaking box form with central entrance at the base of the tower; its small scale and modest Gothic-Revival style detailing; its stone construction in local limestone, dating to 1843; the windows of the church, both clear and stained glass, including the wooden pointed, neo-gothic windows; the memorial windows, including one on the south wall, installed in 1984 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the landing of the Mohawks; a small window in the vestry, representing the 100th anniversary of the church; and the memorial window presented to the church in 1907 by the family of prominent community member Dr. Oronhyatekha; the evidence of the Mohawk tradition of voluntary military service including the beacons on the church spire installed for the military aircraft landing field at nearby Camp Mohawk in the 1940s and the memorial plaques on the interior walls; the royal presentations including the triptych in the original Mohawk language presented by George III in 1798, the church bell given by George III and recast after the 1906 fire, the Royal Coat of Arms given by George V, the Queen Anne communion silver, the Queen Victoria Bible, the Queen Elizabeth II communion chalice, demonstrating the long-standing alliance between the Mohawk of Tyendinaga and the British Crown; the references to the former Mohawk Valley communities including the wolf’s head carving over the exterior door representing the Wolf clan of the Mohawk Valley, and the stone from the Queen Anne Chapel at Fort Hunter; the central and symbolic siting of the chapel on the rise of land overlooking the Bay of Quinte.