Saint-Jacques Church

The Church, a Home for All

From the entrance, a vast portico was wishing, by its three archways elegantly curved, as three times the welcome and was inviting to contemplation.

By the three double doors, of a height and a width smaller than the arches, worshippers were filling or emptying the church in an instant.  […] Spiritual, social and artistic home, so was the Canadian church for more than two centuries.

Place of Worship

Saint-Jacques church is the second place of worship in the parish originally populated by Acadians who establish in the area by the end of the 1760s decade. At first, they have to go to the church of L’Assomption-de-la-Sainte-Vierge for liturgical celebrations.

The parish of Saint-Jacques, first in the region, establishes around 1774. It is named in tribute to the parish priest of L’Assomption, Jacques Degeay. For more than 50 years, it covers a vast territory stretching from Ste-Julienne to Crabtree, and from Rawdon to Saint-Alexis and St-Liguori. A first rectory, also used as a chapel, opens around 1775.
 

Victor Bourgeau’s Plans

Built from 1801 to 1813, the first church of Saint-Jacques occupies the same land as the present church. Over the course of the 19th century, the church undergoes different interventions, such as an expansion in 1859, carried out in accordance with the plans of the architect Victor Bourgeau (1809–1888). Fire destroys the building in 1914.

The construction of this church caused significant problems. The trustees appointed to monitor the works who refused to account for money they received were brought to court, then put in prison. Problems got to the extent that Bishop Plessis was forced to invoke ecclesiastical censures.

He locked down the chapel, and for three months, parishioners had to go to neighbouring parishes to perform their religious duties. This act of severity had a positive impact. The turmoil faded, and construction works went forward. The new church was blessed on August 10, 1813, more than 10 years after the first stone was laid.
 

Louis Caron’s Work

The present church of Saint-Jacques is the work of Louis Caron (1871–1926). Architect and mayor of Nicolet, his work is mainly seen on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River. He designs the exterior of the building, its interior decor and some pieces of furniture, such as the pulpit and baldachin of the high altar. For the church reconstruction, the parish receives a significant amount of money, legacy of Camille Gagnon, from Saint-Jacques. Works start in 1916.

As the Bells Toll

During construction in 1917, a fire destroys one of the spires. Once finished the next year, the building is decorated with many paintings and statues, saved from the first church that burned down. The two statues in niches, on the building’s facade, are one of Mr. Gagnon’s wishes.

The Blessed Cross

For more than a century, twelve wayside crosses were erected; they constantly remind to our valiant humans their Christian foundations. There is no spectacle we know that is more inspiring than the summer novenas; at the base of the cross, after a long day of hard work, all were gathering to leave it prayers, hopes, and thanksgivings.

The existing cross is collectively built in 1995 by Gérald Dugas, Marc Lépine, Michel Robichaud, Léo Mireault and René Drainville. Valéda Plouffe paints the heart. People said it was Valéda’s heart. As for the copper rooster, it is stolen a short time after it was installed. The cross is blessed during a sung mass celebrating the Chemin du Bas-de-l’Église school reunion, in 1996.

Historical and Architectural Values

The architectural and historical specific features of Saint-Jacques church include, among other things:

Its massing, a Latin cross plan consisting of a rectangular nave, a transept, a protruding choir and a flat chevet with rounded edges; a straight-sided pitched roof covered with sheet metal with rods, pierced with bonneted dormers, and topped with a lantern where the transept crosses; 

Its rusticated stone facade, including the two slightly protruding side towers (surmounted by an octagonal bell tower, a wrought spire and a cross, and pierced with semicircular portals), the broken arched pediment topped by a cross, the triple portal (fitted with double doors above which lie arched tympanums), the round-headed windows (some in groups of 3 or 4), the rectangular gemelled windows, architraves, belt courses and smooth stone quoins, as well as the arched arcade and cornice;

Its nave and choir walls, composed of rusticated stone masonry work, arched openings, an oculus, smooth stone architraves, a dentilled cornice along the arched arcades, belt courses and crowns;

Its location, set back from the public road, on a vast landscaped lot;

Its proximity to the village rectory, the Sisters of Saint Anne’s Convent, the Vieux Collège (old college), the sexton’s former house and the parish cemetery, within the core of the Catholic institution

References

Gaspard Dauth. (1900). Le Diocèse de Montréal à la fin du dix-neuvième siècle, Montréal: Eusèbe Sénécal et cie, p.605-606.

Gouvernement du Québec Culture et Communications Québec, Église de Saint-Jacques, Répertoire du patrimoine culturel du Québec. 2013.

Musée acadien du Québec, Croix de chemin commémorative de la première messe, Répertoire des régions acadiennes du Québec. 2019.

LANOUE, François. Une nouvelle Acadie, Saint-Jacques de l'Achigan, 1772-1972. Joliette, Mise à jour, 1972. 410 p.
 



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