Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 15, 2004
Wooden sanctuary surprises
Modern sculpture, historical flags, oak and walnut crucifix contrast with church's historical setting
Christ the King - - November 21
By TED FITZGERALD
Special to the WCR
High above the city, looking down on the great Gasp‚ Bay, is a most unusual structure for this part of old Quebec.
Modern and displaying abstract geometric shapes, it was said by designer Gerard Notebaert to reflect the mountain profiles to the west. This dark, angular, squarish building is the Cathedral of Christ the King, seat of the Diocese of Gasp‚, an area that embraces most of the province's Gasp‚ Peninsula.
The story of the cathedral began almost 500 years ago when St. Malo explorer Jacques Cartier landed near here on July 24, 1534, claimed the land for the king of France and planted a cross as a symbol of his Christian faith.
The place became a convenient stopping point and distribution centre for New France and the Gulf of St. Lawrence and for years was the scene of armed conflicts.
English torched community
The settlement was burned by the English in 1690 and occupied by them shortly before the Conquest. Since the arrival of Loyalists in the 18th century the city has been a predominantly English-speaking place. In 1970 Gasp‚ Municipality was re-defined to include 12 nearby coastal towns.
As early as 1934, when the city was celebrating its 400th anniversary, plans were underway for a major new church. The result was the dedication of the present cathedral in 1969.
Established in 1922 under highly respected Bishop Francois-Xavier Ross, the diocese extends along the Gasp‚sie coast from Cap Chat on the St. Lawrence River to Restigouche at the head of Chaleur Bay.
Today, Bishop Jean Gagnon oversees some 85,000 Catholics in 65 parishes.
The cathedral has a powerful patron as evidenced by the many scriptural references to the concept of king and kingdom of heaven. Jesus failed to provide the kind of leader the people desired, an earthly one that would free them from Roman domination.
To Pilate, Jesus replied "Yes I am king - "but "Mine is not a kingdom of this world" (John 18:33-38). His passion is commemorated in the Sorrowful Mysteries of the rosary, particularly the third one where the ordeal of being crowned with thorns is remembered as part of his humiliation as a king.
The infamous notice attached to the cross - INRI proclaimed "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews." The coming of Christ in glory as sovereign of the universe is celebrated each November as the Solemnity of Christ the King.
First impression of the cathedral interior by visitors is of an extremely airy, immense, bright sanctuary with minimal extraneous d‚cor. It's made almost entirely of cedar with its focus at a huge oak and walnut crucifix behind the altar.
There's a large painting on the nave wall that portrays Jacques Cartier's arrival and nearby, an unusual 4.6-metre high bronze sculpture by Claude Th‚berge of Montreal represents Christ the King.
Gasp‚ is a place of mixed faith and history, thus the massive 42 ton, 10 metre high grey granite cross on the cathedral grounds is meant to recall the cross planted near the city by Cartier, the symbol of his Christian faith and memento of the crucifixion.
Visitors to the city may also enjoy the Jacques Cartier Heritage Walk which includes stops at many historic buildings, including the cathedral and the adjacent bishop's residence/ex-hotel.
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