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1841 St. John's Newfoundland Cathedral Medal in Silver. Leroux-323. VF+.

1841 St. John's Newfoundland Cathedral Medal in Silver. Leroux-323. VF+.


52mm. 58.9 grams. This impressive silver medal commemorates the laying of the cornerstone of the Basilica-Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in St. John’s, Newfoundland. The cathedral is shown on the obverse is high relief with the following inscription in the exergue: THE HOUSE WHICH I DESIRE TO BUILD IS GREAT. 2 PARALIP. II. The maker’s name, J. TAYLOR is difficult to see on this example but appears between THE in the legend and the lower right corner of the cathedral, while BIRM. is noted at the opposite border. THE CATHEDRAL OF ST JOHNS, NEWFOUNDlAND is above.

The reverse shows a bishop blessing the cornerstone with a cross prominently displayed at the centre and priests around. A village is seen in the background with an all-seeing eye and rays directly above. The exergue reads: THE FIRST STONE LAID BY THE RT REVD DR FLEMING V.A. 1841. The medal is cast with characteristic roughness to the surfaces and indistinct finer points. However, relief is remarkable and the piece is nicely toned in gunmetal and olive-gold hues.

According to Heritage Newfoundland and Labrador:

The project began under the leadership of Bishop Michael Anthony Fleming, who went through great pains to secure a grant of land to build the cathedral. After making five trips to England, and following a Board of Ordnance grant, Fleming acquired nine acres of land on which to build the church and related buildings. Work commenced with the fencing of the land in 1838, and on the May 21, 1841 the cornerstone was laid. Sixteen years elapsed from the time excavation work began in 1839 until the cathedral was consecrated in 1855.

Fleming himself helped Irish worked cut stone mined from local quarries for the structure. At the time, the construction was the largest ever undertaken in Newfoundland. Again, Heritage Newfoundland and Labrador explains:

When finished in 1855, it was 246 feet, 6 inches long, and 186 feet, 6 inches wide in the transept. The interior is 55 ft. high. At the time of its completion it had a seating capacity of 2,000 and was one of the largest buildings in British North America. The two 138 foot high towers on either side of the entrance contain a town clock and nine Irish bells. Irishman James Murphy cast the largest bell, the two-ton St. John Bell, in 1850. James Murphy won a Gold Medal at the Dublin Exhibition of Irish Manufacturers for his work.

The basilica was designated a National Historic Site in 1984, the same year it was visited by Pope John Paul II. An important medal and seldom offered in any grade, let alone this Very Fine state.

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