HeaderBase Static Header Angel HeaderBase
StJohns Church Header Image
Side Bar Bug

Ceiling Restoration Leads to Discovery of Unique Star Pattern


Lunenburg, NS, October 7, 2004 – Today, American Express presented a grant of $80,000 U.S. dollars to the World Monuments Fund (WMF) for the restoration of St. John’s Anglican Church. Made through the World Monuments Watch program of New York-based WMF, the grant will aid the preservation and restoration of the historic mural paintings on the wood paneled chancel walls and decoratively painted details throughout the church. St. John’s Anglican Church, located in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, is the second oldest Protestant church in Canada and is the first Canadian site to be listed on the World Monuments Watch List of 100 Most Endangered Sites.


The initiative to restore St. John’s began after a fire in November 2001 destroyed more than 50 per cent of the historic landmark. Prior to the destructive fire, the wooden chapel ceiling of St. John’s Church featured an array of gold leaf stars that decorated the cathedral canopy. With the subsequent restoration efforts, there was a need to identify the original star patterns so that they could be reproduced as closely as possible. Several photographs of the chapel ceiling have been taken prior to the fire. The restoration team took the images to David Turner, Professor of Astronomy and Physics at Saint Mary’s University, who was able to identify the stars on the ceiling as those that would have appeared from Lunenburg from the chapel at sunset on the evening of December 24, 1 BC – the “traditional” date for the birth of Jesus. With the aid of photographs and newly generated drawing plans for the panels produced by Dr. Turner, conservationists were able to replicate the original star patterns.


“We are extremely grateful and excited to have received this grant from American Express and the World Monuments Fund. These two important organizations have joined our community to restore a truly historic Canadian landmark,” said, Denise Black, Executive Director, St. John's Restoration. “Without their support, we may have lost a true historic treasure.”


American Express and the World Monuments Fund

American Express is a founding sponsor of WMF’s World Monuments Watch program, established in 1995 to draw attention to the plight of imperiled historic, artistic and architectural sites worldwide and ensure their preservation. American Express’s ten-year, $10 million commitment to this program has attracted at least $100 million more for Watch-listed sites from local and international governments, corporations, foundations and individuals, and has encouraged new preservation activism worldwide.


To date American Express has awarded grants to 110 sites in 59 countries totaling $8.5 million. “We are committed to this program because we understand how critically important it is to save cultural landmarks like St. John’s Anglican Church,” said Cheryl Stansby, Director Business Travel Strategy, American Express. “Not only are sites like this a great source of local pride, they are a witness to our shared history and by attracting visitors from all over the world, they promote a better understanding of that history.”


The announcement ceremony took place at St. John’s Anglican Church, hosted by American Express. Other distinguished guests included top officials in government and culture, Lunenburg Mayor Laurence Mawhinney, Senator Wilfred Moore, Randy Brooks of the Nova Scotia Tourism, Culture and Heritage Office, and members of the media.


St. John’s Anglican Church

Located within the UNESCO World Heritage City of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, the St. John’s Anglican Church stood as one of the most brilliant examples of the Carpenter Gothic style in the New World. The church itself was designed in 1754 to be a simple wooden meeting house for local citizens. It was later “Gothicized” in 1840 and was expanded in the latter part of the nineteenth century. The overall architecture of Lunenburg, including St. John’s, speaks to a long history of the human spirit that forged Canadian society and their struggles throughout the centuries.


Shortly after midnight on Halloween 2001, the 249-year-old church was ravaged by a fire of unknown origin. Although the church was equipped with sprinklers and the well-trained fire brigade arrived in moments, the church was soon engulfed in flames. While 50 per cent of the building was destroyed, the site did not lose its historic landmark designation and it was ruled that there was ample fragmentary evidence to replicate St. John’s lost interior finishes and restore the historic church.


Parishioners and the local community have shown committed support for the project, volunteering time and making generous financial donations. Government sources have assisted in funding some of the preliminary phases of the project to restore the church to its pre-1910 appearance, and a restoration team has been assembled. Project organizers are campaigning to leverage greater financial support for the restoration of St. John’s and to enhance the international profile of Old Town Lunenburg.


Completion of the restoration is currently scheduled for June, 2005. For more on the church and intriguing new discoveries made during the restoration, please visit: http://www.stjohnsrestoration.com and 360° interactive panoramas are available at: http://www.world-heritage-tour.org/virtualTour/WMF/index.html.


World Monuments Fund

Every other year, the World Monuments Fund invites governments and non-governmental organizations around the world to nominate endangered sites for inclusion on the World Monuments Watch List of 100 Most Endangered Sites. WMF then convenes an independent panel of experts who are leaders in the fields of archaeology, architecture, art history, and historic preservation to review the hundreds of nominations and select the most compelling sites with the greatest threats for inclusion on the List.


“One of the keys to the success of the Watch is the national and international awareness of endangered sites it raises,” remarked Bonnie Burnham, President of World Monuments Fund, from its headquarters in New York. “Projects such as this one often need support from the international community. The Watch program opens the door to expanded partnerships among the corporate sector, nonprofit organizations worldwide, and local champions of the site. In the case of St. John’s Anglican Church, we are delighted to be working with St. John’s Restoration and we are grateful for the continued support of American Express.”


Since its inception in 1995, the World Monuments Fund’s Watch program has awarded 354 grants totaling over $32 million to aid 185 sites in 72 countries. An estimated $79.6 million more has been leveraged directly to the sites from governments, businesses, individuals and institutions.


Since 1965, the private nonprofit World Monuments Fund, an international organization with headquarters in New York City, has been preserving and safeguarding the historic, artistic, and architectural heritage of humankind.