Submitted by Marion Kelch
St. Norbert Church, located south of Provost, is Alberta’s largest rural neo-Gothic church. Also known also as Rosenheim church, it was the Catholic focal point of a the district of Rosenheim, which had been settled by mostly German-Americans who had immigrated to this part of Joseph’s Colony beginning in 1906.
By 1922, the parishioners required a larger church for their ever-expanding congregation. Under the leadership of Father Matthias Schnitzler, they chose the design of Ladislaus de Jurkowski, a highly esteemed architect from Hanna, Alberta, who had previously won a world-wide competition for the design of a massive Catholic church at Copacabana, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Jurkowski designed St. Norbert Church in a neo-Gothic style featuring a nave, two side aisles, stained glass windows, rose windows, and with extensive use of Romanesque arches. The church has a soaring center spire and impressive curvilinear buttressing on the façade.
Costing $20,000 to build, it was for that time a tremendous undertaking.
It was a joyous event on July 26, 1923, when Archbishop O’Leary journeyed from Edmonton for the consecration liturgy of St. Norbert Church.
The Rosenheim parish flourished, and the church served over 100 families. However, during the severe drought and Great Depression of the 1930s, many of the pioneers were forced to leave the district. Following this, the continued urbanization and consolidation throughout the 1950s and ‘60s resulted in a dwindling congregation.
By 1968, St. Norbert Church was closed. It stood abandoned for nearly a decade, and eventually, the building came under threat of demolition.
In 1976, a small group of Rosenheimers applied to create a Rosenheim Historical Society, with the objective to restore and preserve St. Norbert Church.
On June 10, 1977, a restrictive covenant was signed between the Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton and the Rosenheim Historical Society whereby the ownership of St. Norbert Church was granted to the Rosenheim Historical Society for the sum of one ($1.00) dollar.
The Rosenheim Historical Society applied to Alberta Culture for recognition of the church as an historic resource and on September 8, 1978, Minister of Culture, Horst Schmid, in recognition of the building’s outstanding architecture, declared St. Norbert Church an Alberta Historic Resource.
The society initiated numerous fundraising projects to begin the enormous task of restoration and preservation. It would take 18 years to complete the first phase of restoration.
A large crowd gathered on June 1, 1996, for the Rosenheim Restoration Celebration Ceremony. The church bell in the tower rang out with the reading of each family name of the parishioners who 74 years previous had contributed to the building of the church. Then Dr. Horst Schmid, former Minister of Culture, cut the gold ribbon. The upstairs interior of St. Norbert had been restored to its original glory.
During the next 26 years, the Society continued restoration and preservation as well as beautifying the grounds of Rosenheim Cemetery.
The church is now used for occasional church services and is the venue for numerous weddings, concerts and cultural events.
Today, in its centennial year, St. Norbert Church proudly stands as a splendid and much-admired monument to the history of a Catholic settlement in Rosenheim, Alberta.
Visit St. Norbert’s website at: stnorbertschurchrosenheim.ca