Basilica-Cathedral of Québec

Québec, QC

Information Bulletin from the Center of animation François de Laval
number 10 Summer 2001
June 24th 2001

In the setting of theFeast of All Saints in Rome, there was a special ceremony held in memory ofoutstanding personalities in the history of Christianity. Last Wednesday,November 1st, among the 600 banners decorating Saint Peter's square , was onerepresenting François de Laval and the Notre-Dame de Quebec Cathedral.

After being kept in Europe for sometime, the banner was returned to Canada lastMay. This banner bears a special recommendation made by François de Laval tohis friend Henri-Marie Houdon in 1677: "I entrust you with the spiritualneeds and the worldly goods of our Church?"

At the beginning of the third millennium, the pastoral concerns of the Churchin Quebec took place in a social and cultural environment very different fromthe one François de Laval knew. However, we remember that the youth, theeducational and vocational work were at the heart of his pastoral ministry.

In order for us to proclaim the Gospel today, we know that François de Lavalwould ask us to have an unshakable faith in God and ask us to turn our eyes tothe ONE who is forever faithful.

As first bishop of North America, François de Laval was chosen as the standardbearer of two projects concerning the youth in 2002 : the ContinentalVocational Congress to be held in Montreal in April, and the World Youth Day tobe held in Toronto in July, whose delegates will be previously welcomed indifferent dioceses.

Since being returned to Canada, the banner has been traveling throughoutdifferent Christian communities of the Quebec Diocese. This symbol is meant tostimulate the common prayer for today's youth and the vocations.

The banner travels through the pastoral regions as per the following calendar:

May-June-July Orléans

August Charlevoix

September Laurentides

October Amiante/


Nov.-Dec.-Jan. Chaudière

February Rive-Sud

March Portneuf

April Lorette

May Louis-Hébert

June-July Québec-Centre

The figure of François de Laval has always been present in Quebec'siconography. The following article by Mr. Gilles Bureau shows this richheritage and culture.

Sister Doris Lamontagne, p.f.m.



At the time when our society fervently expressed our common faith, the artists had numerous occasions to express their talents. The construction of new churches and chapels for the religious congregations and different religious associations represented a golden opportunity for the artists. Even if things have changed nowadays, the beatifications and canonizations made under the papacy of John Paul II, allow the rise of a renewed religious art.

Mgr de Laval stimulated artistic creation long before his beatification in 1980. Right after his death in 1708, Father Henri-Jean Tremblay, treasurer of the Séminaire de Québec in Paris, commissioned a posthumous engraving that strongly contributed to establish the image of the first bishop of New France. We think that engraver Claude Duflos was inspired by a painting from the 1670's, made during a trip the bishop made to France in order to get the Papal Bullae that officially recognized him as bishop of Quebec. The painting is still kept by the “la Varende” family in Normandy. In Canada we like to think that the original image the engraver used was made by brother Luc, but that is a different story.

Towards 1700, when the bishop was 77, the future Father Jacques Leblond de Latour made another painting of Laval 1. While the first painting shows a young and vigorous Mgr de Laval, the second one shows an old man with a serene facial appearance. I have often heard that cardinal Roy preferred the second one. He agreed with Brother Hubert Houssart, the faithful servant of Mgr de Laval for over twenty years, who recognized better the image of an old bishop than the one of his younger years.

The icons period

    Working steadfastly the Séminaire de Québec, guardian of the memories of its founder, has multiplied the images of François de Laval The artists have been inspired more often by Claude Duflos’ engraving. The most recent work representing the first bishop of Quebec is an icon made by Marthe Bélanger and Céline Boucher, that was offered by the Seminary to the parish of the Blessed François de Laval at the beginning of 2001. The bishop is represented between the Holy Family and his Church holding a sign that invites us to trust the Providence, as he used to repeat constantly. This work follows the byzantine tradition. His attitude showing goodness reflects the charitable man he was.

    There is a second icon made by Mrs. Denise Gosselin-Gravel reflecting the bishop’s works

The bronze representations

    In 1908, to signal the second centenary of François de Laval’s death, an important public fund-raising allowed the erection of a monument at the top of “la Côte de La Montagne” in Quebec City. The sculptor Louis-Philippe Hébert delivered one of his best works ever, and maybe even the most beautiful monument in a city that has many. The great overall beauty of the statue often leads us to ignore the representation at the base of the monument.

    In 1965, the government of Jean Lesage decided to complete the statuary on the facade of Quebec’s Parliament building .The sculptor Émile Brunet made the statue of Mgr de Laval using the same model he had created to decorate the facade of Sainte-Anne de Beaupré’s Basilica.

    During Pope John Paul’s II visit to Canada in 1984, the Séminaire de Québec commissioned a bronze statue from sculptor Raoul Hunter that was placed over the altar of the Exterior Chapel. Hunter, known cartoonist at Le Soleil newspaper was first of all a renowned sculptor. I personally find this fact as being absolutely remarkable, it deserves a greater appreciation.

    The decision to translate the body of Mgr de Laval to the Basilica-Cathedral of Québec allowed the construction of a funeral chapel that is undoubtedly the most beautiful piece of 20th century sacred art in Quebec City.

    It was inaugurated in 1993, and contains a remarkable bronze recumbent, created by the artists Jules Lasalle and Ducharme Marion. The idea of representing the bishop with his eyes open makes the monument even more impressive.

The stone works

    The Basilica of Ste-Anne de Beaupré has at least four representations of the first bishop. A mosaic in the choir vaults, a stained glass window in the Chapel of the Great Relic and two works in stone. Besides the work of Émile Brunet, carved by the sculptor Maurice Lord, in 1962, on the greater frieze on the facade there is a procession showing Mgr de Laval. This frieze conceived by André Vermare, in 1925, was made by the sculptor Louis Parent, en 1945.

    The great laying recumbent in white marble, by the Italian sculptor Francisco Nagni which is found in the funeral chapel made by the architect Adrien Dufresne is certainly the first one of the great stone monuments representing Mgr de Laval. Built in 1949, in the Exterior Chapel of the Séminaire de Québec, the funeral chapel enriched with a great number of religious as well as artistic symbols, demonstrate the knowledge and the genie of its creators.

Glass works

    Mgr de Laval was also represented on stained glass windows. There are three of them at the Séminaire de Québec. Two small ones from the 19th century, decorate the great living room at the priests Residence. They represent the bishop praying and taking care of the sick. They are outstandingly beautiful.In 1904, Father J. A. Laflamme offered a nice stained glass window that can be admired at the organ’s gallery of the Exterior Chapel.After 1956, Father Jan Tillemanst, O.M.I, who was also a glassworker, made a colossal work that covers all the windows of the great Sanctuary of Notre-Dame du Cap de la Madeleine. The right side letter C window contains five sections representing Mgr de Laval. The artist represented the bishop praying, on a pastoral journey, taking care of the sick, ordaining a priest and as a cornerstone of the Canadian Church.

    A statue by the ceramist Mona is kept in the chapel of the Grand Séminaire. This work by an original and sensitive artist, is like a jewel inside this place where priests and seminarists meet every day to pray.

Other works

    Two small statues are kept at the Archbishopric. One of them is a ceramic work by Mona, given to cardinal Vachon in 1985. Mgr de Laval is represented holding a replica of his Seminary. The Archbishop’s oratory has a small wooden statue by Alphonse Paré. In 1982, Mgr Leclerc gave the Archbishopric several statues made by this artist from Sainte-Anne de Beaupré.Other artists have represented François de Laval. In 1923, the sculptor Henri Charlier made the high reliefs commemorating the three centennial of François de Laval’s birth. These works are true masterpieces and can be seen at Montigny-sur-Avre and at the church of St-Germain des Prés in Paris.

    Closer to home, a portrait of the bishop was painted on the wall of the bishops crypt in Québec City.. The diocesan archivist Father Armand Gagné attributes this work to Paul Lacroix. It was commissioned by Cardinal Roy in 1959.

    In the parish church of Saint-Zéphirin de Stadaconé, we find a great painting by Antonio Masselotte showing the bishop giving the sacrament of confirmation to a Native Canadian. It was made at the end of the 19th century. In St-Joseph de Beauce we can also find a similar painting.A painting kept at the Musée du Québec, shows a François de Laval on the Apothéose de Christophe Colomb made by Napoléon Bourassa (1904 & 1912). In the Quebec’s Parliament building there is a painting by Charles Huot (1925) showing the bishop sitting on the Sovereign Council.


    We have the privilege of having true portraits of Mgr de Laval. The images of several other historical characters like Cartier, Champlain, or Frontenac were totally created by artists. Each generation retakes the characteristics of the bishop and interprets them according to its time. Its up to you now to add a new piece of art to the collection if you have the talent to do it, or to find other represen-tations of the bishop that we don’t know about. It is a good way of honoring François de Laval, the blessed founder of our Church. Finally, I would like to thank my friend Jean-Claude Filteau for his help and his knowledge.

    Gilles Bureau
    History Professor (retired)
    Petit Séminaire de Québec
    1 The work is attributed to him. This portrait decorates the walls of the great room of the Quebec’s Archbishopric.

    The original is kept at the Musée de l’Amérique Française.

    Is it possible that he is dead, this man that we so much enjoyed seeing aliveand whose memory will never die!
    (De la Colombière, 1708)

Copyright 2001

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Last updated February 24th 2005