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Visiting Knox Presbyterian Church, Elora, Ontario: dating from 1873, Gothic elements in profusion

Updated on October 5, 2015
Provincial flag of Ontario
Provincial flag of Ontario | Source
Knox Presbyterian Church in Elora, Ontario.
Knox Presbyterian Church in Elora, Ontario. | Source
John Knox; woodcut, scanned from:  F Maclean, A Concise History of Scotland, London 1970
John Knox; woodcut, scanned from: F Maclean, A Concise History of Scotland, London 1970 | Source

Striking features

At this relatively small church building in Elora, Ontario, the most striking design element is the Gothic: this is present in profusion.

Executed in stone and dating from 1873, the building exhibits pointed arching over windows and the main doorway; flying buttresses which dovetail into a narrowing tower; pinnacles which blend into its conspicuous spire.

While the church's doctrinal background is strongly Protestant, the architecture is reminiscent of a Medieval Roman Catholic ecclesiastical structure (or even a backdrop to a film set depicting a dramatic tragedy!)

As a Presbyterian church, it is named for the Scottish Protestant church leader John Knox (c.1513-1572) Knox was known as a confident expositor of the Bible during a tumultuous historical era, and an organizer of churches in Scotland along what became known as Presbyterian lines (1).

Many readers will be aware that in Canada the United Church was comprised in the 1920s of Presbyterian and Methodist congregations, and not a few Presbyterian congregations with origins in the 19th century became known as local branches of the United Church. However, quite a number of Presbyterian churches declined to join the new denomination when it was formed (2), and this is why the Knox congregation at Elora is still known as Knox Presbyterian. Many of the congregation's ministers have been of Scottish extraction.

Knox Presbyterian Church, Elora, has its origins in the 1837 Old Log Church, at Bon Accord, Old Nichol Township (where a monument exists to this foundation).

From 1853-1873, a building known as the Frame-Roughcast Church stood on the current building's site in Elora (3): this site is now known as 55 Church Street West; this building strongly resembled a typical Nonconformist chapel widely built among Protestants of British heritage. It is recorded that when the current, strongly Gothic building was completed in 1873, it cost the sum of $22,000.00.

Elora forms part of the Ontario municipality of Centre Wellington. Especially in the summer months, it attracts a huge amount of visitors, not least owing to its reputation of being the Province's most picturesque village: a subjective matter of opinion, of course, but probably not far from the truth.

October 5, 2015


(1) I have visited the building known as John Knox House in Edinburgh, Scotland; curiously there is little historical evidence to link Knox with the building that bears his name in Scotland's capital. This building in Elora is but one of a number of structures named for John Knox in Ontario: this is probably owing both to the strength of Biblical heritage — identified with John Knox — in English Canada and also to the extent of Scottish immigration to the Province.

(2) Such was the support for the new denomination that it became the largest Christian denomination in Canada.

(3) See also:

Map location of Wellington County, Ontario
Map location of Wellington County, Ontario | Source

Also worth seeing

In Elora itself, the picturesque Gorge, the Mill and the adjacent Tooth of TIme rock on the Grand River, the Post Office building dating from 1911 and the riverside shops are well-known features.

West Montrose (distance: 13.7 kilometres), a quaint locality in the Township of Woolwich, with a remarkable, covered bridge dating from 1881; the village is especially noted for the presence of Old Order Mennonites.

St Jacobs (distance: 25.7 kilometres), a picturesque village, with Mennonite heritage, which attracts many visitors, situated in the Township of Woolwich, and with a popular, nearby Farmer's Market.


How to get there: Air Canada, flies to Toronto Pearson Airport, with wide North American and other connections, from where car rental is available. (Distance from Toronto Pearson to Elora: approx. 97 kilometres.) WestJet and Bearskin Airlines fly to Waterloo Regional Airport, from where car rental is available, from Calgary and Ottawa respectively. (Distance from Waterloo Regional Airport to Elora: 31.4 kilometres.) You are advised that some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. Please check for up to date information with the airline or your travel agent.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.


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