Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 12, 2004
Church houses magnificent art
Valiant St. George slew the fire-breathing dragon
St. George -- April 23
By TED FITZGERALD
Special to the WCR
Just off rue de l'Eglise in the riverside town, St-Georges-de-Cacouna is an attractive, historical House of God, centrepiece of the community, greatly respected by all Cacounois. This, the oldest church in the Rimouski Diocese, was designated an historic monument in 1957 and is admired annually by thousands of visitors.
St. George is of course, one of the most readily recognized saints in both the Eastern and Western churches. He has enjoyed enormous popularity since the seventh century, with his red cross banner, lance and cowering, defeated dragon, the epitome of the knight in shining armour.
Sometimes he's portrayed with a rescued damsel or riding a white horse. George is the model for chivalry and concern for the poor and downtrodden, the victor over evil forces.
This patron of England, Germany, Portugal, archers, soldiers and the Republic of Georgia has his name attached to more than five towns in Quebec alone.
His red cross appears at the top of Alberta's coat of arms and on the provincial flag.
Despite his widespread appeal and popularity, he's also one of the most scantily documented of the early saints. A martyr in the Mid East in about the year 300, veneration of George as a soldier-saint was brought to the West by early crusaders, who also adopted his red cross emblem.
One version of many tales of St. George has him coming to a town that for a long time had been terrorized by a fire-breathing dragon. Each year, the beast demanded a human to sate his evil appetite.
George arrived just in time to overcome the monster and permit the year's intended victim, the king's daughter, to tame the dragon until he could be disposed of by the grateful populace. After receiving assurances that the people henceforth would lead virtuous, Christian lives, George moved on.
Eglise-St-George, on the St. Lawrence River south shore, is a popular attraction in the Bas-St-Laurent provincial tourist area. Faced with soft grey stone, built in 1848 and restored 50 years later, it replaced an 1810 chapel that predated the establishment of the town of Cacouna by 25 years and the parish by 15. The church is of Recollet style from the period of the French Regime. It lacks transepts, but has three fa‡ade doors embellished with Corinthian columns and other classical elements.
A stepped silver clocher (bell tower) tops the fa‡ade and features two traditional open-work lanterns surmounted by a thin spire and simple cross. Above the choir, the tower is complemented and balanced by a smaller, spired clocheton (pinnacle). The design of the church is based on plans by famed Quebec architect Louis-Thomas Bourlinget. Framed by borders of maple trees, St-Georges faces west onto a broad, paved parking lot.
The sober exterior is not reflected inside where many works of art are a part of the building's historic designation. Images and stained glass windows portray the four evangelists, the Assumption, St. Francis Xavier and the Sacred Heart. Centrepiece is an 1893 oil painting by C. Porta. It shows the armour-clad warrior/patron, lance and banner in hand, with the town behind him, as he subdues the fierce, fire-breathing monster.
Six area churches, including St-Georges, are today served by a small pastoral team organized into the parish of Le Secteur de la Terre a la Mer with daily Masses distributed among them. Each church celebrates at least one Eucharist on Sundays and in combination they support a variety of lay organizations.