Église St-Marc-sur-Richelieu

Saint-Marc-sur-Richelieu ( Montérégie )

From August 7th, 1791, the residents of the Cournoyer seigniory requests from Bishop Hubert, of Quebec, the permission to build a chapel. The territory is organized as a parish on the March 22nd, 1792 and on next July 10th, the syndics are elected to oversee the construction of a presbytery-chapel that will be blessed by the vicar-general Pierre Denault, parish priest of Longueuil, on December 17th, 1793. Next December 22nd, Rev Joseph Martel, parish priest of St. Charles and also serving St. Marc, celebrates the first mass. On September 18th, 1794, he crosses the river to settle in St. Marc while serving his first parish, St. Charles. The first bell in installed into the steeple in 1795.

As the population grows, the presbytery-chapel no longer meets the needs of the parishioners. Three years later, on January 10th, 1796, 43 land owners meet and sign a petition, written by notary Jean-Marie Mondelet, addressed to the bishop of Quebec, to obtain the permission to build a church. On February 3rd, 1797, the syndics register the plans and specifications based, for the first time, on principles developed by Rev Pierre Conefroy, as well as construction cost estimates.

The construction of a stone church starts in 1798. The building style is simple and traditional, generally used to build churches towards the end of the 18th century and the first half of the 19th century. The floor plan of the church is cruciform with a protruding chancel, a semicircular apse and transepts. The internal walls are covered with plaster while the depressed vault is made of wood. The facade and the exterior walls are covered with local stone. The construction cost acoumted to 22 348 pounds for the walls, doors and windows, roof and ironwork. The cornerstone is blessed, on July 4th, 1799, by parish priest Joseph Martel who is really the soul of the construction. However, he will not see its completion. He dies in his presbytery on December 1st, 1800 and is buried under the chancel in the church under construction, on the Gospel side. He is replaced by Rev Joseph Duval-Lelièvre (1800-1802).

The church interior is completed and the pews are installed in 1801. It appears that the parishioners inaugurated their church in the fall of 1801 but it is certain that the Christmas midnight mass was celebrated in the church for the first time. Research reveal that not only the graveyard alongside the church has never been blessed, but the church has never been blessed also. Once the construction of a church is completed, it is usual to undertake its blessing and to record the ceremony into an official act. It was the case for the presbytery-chapel but for the church, no document attesting its blessing was either found in the parochial archives or in the St. Hyacinthe diocesan archives. How could such a gap occur? It is known that on one hand that the church was built between 1798 and 1801, and on the other hand, that the parish priest died on the December 1st, 1800 while the church is not completed yet. It is therefore supposed that, in the context of deep emotions owed to the premature decease of the parish priest Martel, the departure of curate Consigny and the appointment for two years only of the parish priest Duval, they simply forgot the blessing ceremony. Later, they always thought that it had been blessed.

As for the octagonal steeple, of neo-greco-byzanto-roman style, it is in framework with double openwork lanterns and remains one of the nicest in Quebec. Its proportions are in harmony with the facade of the church. Its sober line imparts grace and elegance reminding the true 18th-century French aesthetics which are behind Quebec architecture adapted to climatic conditions. The cock crowning the steeple was installed in 1974.

An Easter candlestick, executed by Joseph Roy, is acquired in 1802 at the cost of 240 pounds. In Louis XIV candle-stand style, is lower section is decorated with three demallions representing the Christ, the virgin Mary and St. Pierre. On February 29th, 1804, a contract is signed with Louis Quevillon, master-sculptor of St. Vincent-de-Paul, to execute the internal decoration and to provide the furnishings except for the high altar that he had already created for the presbytery-chapel in 1792. Works, carried out between 1804 and 1808, represent Quebec’s only complete ensemble by the sculptor. In 1806, a painting representing St. Marc and the lion with a man’s head, executed by German born Augustin Wolff at the cost of 300 pouds, is installed above the high altar. Unfortunately, its disappearing will be recorded by Gérard Morisset in 1941.

In 1819, a rear gallery is erected by master-sculptor Pierre Noiseux, of Trois-Rivières. It is similar with the one located in Varennes and with ornaments similar to those decorating the gallery in Longueuil. In 1820, the same sculptor is chosen to build the baptismal fonts and the confessional. On January 25th, 1824, parish priest Pierre Robitaille (1810-1830) calls a churchwarden assembly to ratify the purchase of two paintings executed by Louis Dulongpré (1754-1843): “The Holy Rosary” and “The death of St. Francis Xavier”. To frame the paintings, Jérôme Pepin, a sculptor and a former Quévillon pupil, is commissionned to produce two large frames painted in black and gold. Painter Yves Tessier signs the purchasing order for both paintings and promises to produce four more, two for the nave of the church and two others to be installed near the high altar. In 1875, Victor Bourgeau is entrusted with the decoration of the vault which he carries out in a grandiose way.

The parsonage-chapel bell, dating from 1795, is sold to the St. Pie parish in 1832 and replaced with a new bell which was blessed on July 6th, 1832. Two new bells are added in 1875 and are blessed by Bishop Édouard-Charles Fabre, auxiliary bishop of Montreal. These bells are replaced with new ones in 1909, during the restoration of the church. In 1951, Dominique Cogné, from Montreal, replaces the stands and wheels by new ones made of steel and intalls three new hammers knocking on the outside of the bells.

After the construction of the church, the chapel above the presbytery is deconsecrated and converted into a public room. The outside look remains the same until the end of of the 19th century. In 1885, Bishop Louis-Zéphirin Moreau (1875-1901), of St. Hyacinthe, orders the construction of a new presbytery. The construction is entrusted to Joachim and J.B. Reid, in 1887. Outside field stone walls, dating from 1793, are covered with building stone which explains their actual thickness. The former chapel, now a public room, is converted into a second floor space and the former two-sided roofing is replaced by a sloping roof.

In 1900, Bishop Moreau requests the enlargement of the church. In 1908, major modifications are carried out on the first church. Among them, it is planned to straighten up Pierre Noiseux’s rear gallery, and to change the hot water heating system for a hot air heating system. Finally, it is decided to curt out the facade to lengthen the church by 12 feet church and to build the actual neoclassical stone facade with a new more up to date steeple. The interior does not avoid modernization. Quévillon’s pulpit is mutilated. The six sides corresponding to the shape of the luffer-boarding which overhangs it, is reduced to four sides; and they install it on castors. The churchwarden pew is simply demolished and, on the pier, a large plaster crucifix is hung concealing Quévillon’s delicate sculpture. Quévillon’s curved balustrade is replaced and straightened up. The high altar is moved back and two doors are inserted in the wall to communicate with the sacristy. The covered way is rebuilt with field stones. Three paintings, executed by Joseph Franchère, are installed in the chancel. There is an interesting anecdote regarding the painting installed on the retable above the high altar. In fact, the first painting to have been hung was the one by Augustin Wolff, but, in 1908, the actual painting, by Joseph Franchère, would have been directly installed over the first one! The Victor Ducharme family donates the stations of the Cross which is still extant in the church, and Alfred Beaudry, residing in the United States, donates the church window panes. Gas for lighting was installed which will be replaced, in 1925, by electricity.

In 1959, the church interior is repainted in different shades of greens and roses according to the current fashion.


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Categories: Attractions, Religious buildings and sites

Card created: 05/2013

GPS coordinates: 45°40'38.85"N, 73°11'38.75"W

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(last modified: 01/1970)