Holy Cross Cemetery in Halifax, Nova Scotia
Holy Cross Cemetery opened in 1843 and was the only Catholic cemetery in Halifax until just before 1900. During the 1800s, the Catholic population of Halifax was mostly Irish or of recent Irish descent. Holy Cross became the final resting place for thousands of them.
Holy Cross Cemetery and Chapel, J.S. Clow, 1849, Lithograph, Documentary Art, Nova Scotia Archives
On August 31, 1843, Rev. William Walsh, a native of Waterford who became the first Archbishop of Halifax, led 1800 mostly Irish parishioners a few blocks from Saint Mary’s Cathedral in downtown Halifax to Holy Cross Cemetery. That day, the parishioners constructed Our Lady of Sorrows chapel on a small hill where the ground had been levelled and prepared for the building.
Canada’s 4th Prime Minster, Sir John Sparrow David Thompson, is interred in Holy Cross.
Thompson was Canada’s first Roman Catholic Prime Minister. His gravesite is located on the right side of the entry road, nor far from the entrance to the Cemetery.
The remains of a number of archbishops, including Archbishop Walsh, are located in “Bishop’s Row”, adjacent to the north side of Our Lady of Sorrows chapel, “the church built in a day”.
Nova Scotia Information Service, Nova Scotia Archives 6945
During the 1900s, the appearance of Holy Cross became dreadful. Many headstones fell into disrepair or collapsed.
The chapel was deteriorating, as was much of the fencing around the Cemetery.
Beginning in 2008, Dr. Brian O’Brien, a person with deep Halifax Irish Catholic roots, established Holy Cross Cemetery Trust (HCCT), helped raise substantial sums required for the
needed work and led a dedicated group of volunteers in a long-term effort to repair the
headstones and chapel and beautify the grounds.
Hundreds of volunteers have taken part in work at Holy Cross which continued at a gradually reducing rate until Covid struck in 2020. Going forward, with Covid receded, HCHT plans a reduced schedule of maintenance, repair and beautification at Holy Cross during good weather months.
Holy Cross Historical Trust (HCHT) was established in 2013 to carry on the work started by HCCT and to promote the history of Holy Cross and of Irish Catholics in Halifax.
In 2013-14, encouraged by the two trusts and supported by the Canadian Government, Saint Mary’s University led an historical and sociological study of Irish Catholic Halifax in the 19th century, with Holy Cross Cemetery a central focus. The study resulted in the 2015 publication by The Canadian Catholic Historical Association of a volume entitled “Irish Catholic Halifax: From the Napoleonic Wars to the Great War”.
HCHT has placed several interpretive panels at Holy Cross, providing visitors with relevant historical information. One of the panels commemorates the Halifax Explosion and lists the victims of the Explosion buried at Holy Cross.
Interior of Our Lady of Sorrows Chapel
Holy Cross Cemetery has had over 25,000 burials, about 17,000 of them before 1900. In the current century a small cremation section and a columbarium have been added.
The annual Mass for the Faithful Departed at Our Lady of Sorrows Chapel in Holy Cross Cemetery is on Friday, September 15 at 5:15 pm. All are welcome!September 15th is the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows.
Holy Cross Historical Trust is pleased to welcome you to our updated website. We thank the Government of Ireland for its financial assistance. With Covid receding, our volunteers have been able to resume some work on the grounds this year. The weather continues to...
Board of Trustees
Pat Curran, Chair
Ronan Holland, Secretary-Treasurer
Don Reardon, Restoration Director
Brian Doherty, Trustee
Brian O’Brien, Trustee
Sheila McCallum, Trustee
Sandy Phillips, Trustee
Holy Cross Historical Trust is a registered Canadian charity, Number 824939243RR0001.
1259 South Park Street
P.O. Box 8091 Halifax, N.S.
We acknowledge the support of the Government of Ireland – Emigrant Support Programme