Nfld. & Labrador

Religious relic from WW I back at Basilica museum

Another part of the Beaumont-Hamel legacy, a bit of a mystery, is on display at the Roman Catholic Museum next to the Basicilica of St. John the Baptist on Military Road.
Ciborium presented to Father Thomas Nangle for his work in World War One with casualties from Newfoundland and Labrador. (Glenn Payette/CBC)

Another part of the Beaumont-Hamel legacy, a bit of a mystery, is on display at the Roman Catholic Museum next to the Basilica of St. John the Baptist on Military Road.

It is a small cup called a ciborium, used to hold the Host during Mass. The significance of this one is that it was given to Father Thomas Nangle by the Catholic Women's League of Newfoundland and Labrador to make sure their sons would be given a dignified burial. 

Lieutenant Colonel (Padre) Thomas Nangle. (Courtesy: Gary Browne)

Nangle, a St. John's native, became the padre of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment after the Battle of Beaumont-Hamel, and was instrumental in having a caribou monument erected at each of the five main battlefields where Newfoundlanders had fallen.

"Catholic women in the province were each asked to donate 20 cents to purchase the ciborium," said museum archivist, Rene Estrada. It was given to Nangle in 1918.

But the cup was lost for many years, and just how it made its way back to the museum is a mystery. According to Estrada, it showed up about two-and-a-half weeks ago, but he doesn't know who dropped it off. 

The hunt for the ciborium has been going on for about two years, since the museum began working on a commemorative display for Nangle.

"We found a reference to it," said Anne Walsh, who is on the museum's committee. "We know it had been in use for about 50 years, but no one knows what happened to it ... We figure it was put in storage."

Part of the display about Father Thomas Nangle at the Basilica Museum in St. John's. (Courtesy: Basilica Museum)

Nangle had served at several parishes in and around St. John's, including what appears to have been his last one, St. Michael's on Bell Island.

He left the priesthood and his connections to it, including the ciboriuim, in 1925, moving to Rhodesia where he married in 1929 and raised three sons and a daughter.

"I put out an email," said Walsh, in the hope of finding the ciborium. Like Estrado, Walsh said she doesn't know if it was dropped off by a man or woman, or how they came to have it.

Now, the small cup — gold plate over silver — sits under glass on a purple cushion in the centre aisle of the museum.

Ciborium on display at Basilica Museum, Military Road in St. John's. (Glenn Payette/CBC)

This past February, Nangle was named "A Person of Historic Significance" by the federal government for his work to create the "Trail of the Caribou" monuments.

Nangle was 83 when he died in Rhodesia in 1972. 


Glenn Payette


A veteran journalist with more than 30 years' experience, Glenn Payette is a videojournalist with CBC News in St. John's.