This is probably one of the first cemeteries I ever visited, having done so on a school trip in junior high school back in the late 1980s. I have photos in one of my old photo albums of my friends and I posing in front of some of the monuments, although it seems strange to me now to have done so. Of course, we were not there to see the cemetery at the time, but the iconic St. Boniface Cathedral, or what’s left it. This is one of the most well-known sites in Winnipeg, and it sits at the heart of the city, near the Red River, the Forks, and Provencher Bridge.
The original log-chapel church was built in this location in 1818, and two subsequent stone cathedrals were later built in its place. Finally, in 1906, the Cathedral as we know it was built, becoming one of the most impressive churches in all of Western Canada. Unfortunately most of it was destroyed in a fire in 1968, although the main front facade survived. This is what remains today, although a more modern cathedral lies beyond it.
Not surprisingly, the cemetery that lies in front of the cathedral, to the right and the left of the main path, holds the graves of some prominent Manitobans, the most famous being that of Louis Riel, who led both the Red River and Northwest Rebellions against the Canadian government and is the founder of the province of Manitoba. He is the grandson of Jean-Baptiste Lagimodière, one of the first settlers along the Red River, and of Louis Riel Sr., both of whom are also buried in the cemetery. There is also a monumental plaque of the writing of Gabrielle Roy, one of Manitoba’s most well-known Francophone writers.
The cemetery itself is like a park, with a well-maintained lawn on both sides. Like the city itself, the cemetery is also bilingual, with headstones and other memorials written in French, English, or both. There’s a small section for soldiers, and another for monks/priests and nuns. Otherwise the rest seem to be mostly family memorials with multiple burials at each site.
Monuments: Most of the monuments are simple slab or cross headstones, with a few statues here and there. There are some larger monuments to soldiers, as well as a more modern columbarium.
Grounds: The cemetery is on very flat ground and is well-maintained. It’s very easy to walk around. Tall trees mean a lot of dappled light when the sun is out.
Visitors: The cathedral is a major tourist site in addition to serving the local Catholic community, so there are always a fair number of people around.
Photographer notes: As always, you may wish for a slightly overcast day if you want to avoid dappled light everywhere.
Cemetery: St. Boniface Cemetery
Established: 18?? – not sure when the first burials started.
Internments: As noted, Louis Riel is the most well-known person interred here.
Location: 190 Cathédrale Avenue, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Hours: The cemetery/park appears to be open all the time, as there is no fence around it.
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