By Samantha Johnson Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on December 27, 2023.
On the afternoon of Christmas Eve, the News received a tour of St. Patrick’s Church, one of the most recognizable landmarks in Medicine Hat. Tour guide Philip Buisseret explained the church would be full to overflowing for the 5 p.m. service with a good turnout also expected to arrive for the 10 p.m. Midnight Mass.
The alter, donated by Michael Leonard in 1913 to honour deceased members of his family, is made of Italian marble that was shipped over and put together once it arrived. During the tour, the afternoon was shining brightly through the west facing stained glass windows such that there was little need to turn on the main lights.
The three bells in the east tower are named Felix Elizabeth (2907 lbs), Mary (1483.5 lbs) and Mary Adelaide (925.5 lbs) and ring in a low pitch of keys D, F sharp and A. While the main church is warm, there is a significant drop in temperature when climbing up into the bell tower. The walls are made of steel reinforced concrete and Buisseret explained are 21 inches thick.
The bells occupy most of the space, although it’s possible to squeeze between them and walk out through a small door onto the roof between the two spires, which offers a spectacular view of the city. Each bell has a large wooden wheel attached to it and when the ropes are pulled, the wheels turn to swing the bells.
While standing among the bells, it’s beneficial to hold onto something before looking up to see the inside of the spire as the effect can be rather dizzying. On one wall hangs down an old rope attached to a ladder that will pull down to climb up, which Buisseret said were dated back to the original build.
More information on about the church and history can be found at About Us- St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church (stpatscatholicchurch.com).