Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 17, 2007
Church honours the Holy Family, plus Anne, Joachim
This historic place of worship houses artwork depicting their family life
The Holy Family – December 30
- WCR photo by Ted Fitzgerald
Five statues of the Holy Family welcome parishioners to the Church of Sainte-Famille.
By TED FITZGERALD
Special to the WCR
Ile d'Orleans, Quebec
Of six parishes on Quebec's famous and historic Ile d'Orleans, Sainte-Famille is the oldest and has served the people there for more than 300 years. Its name honours the Holy Family whose feast day is observed on Dec. 30 this year.
Significantly, this falls within the octave of the Nativity when the Holy Family is so much in evidence in crŠche scenes and on Christmas cards. The commemoration supplements that of Christmas - for many the most important family event of the year.
It is close to the feast of the Holy Innocents on Dec. 28 and falls within the "12 days of Christmas," anticipating the arrival on Jan. 6 of the Three Kings to be welcomed with their gifts for the Christ Child by his parents Mary and Joseph.
Although knowledge of the life of the Holy Family is limited to a few scriptural passages, since its inception at the nativity it has always been acknowledged as a divine model for the ideal family.
Not long after the momentous birth, Joseph, warned in a dream, responsibly led his tiny family to Egypt, saving Jesus from the fate experienced when Herod slew the Holy Innocents.
Many artworks in churches portray a later Holy Family in homely scenes with an older Jesus assisting his carpenter father while Mary indulges in domestic activities.
The site of the Quebec church dedicated to the family is on the historic island which splits the great St. Lawrence River just below Quebec City. It was named in 1536 by Jacques Cartier to honour France's Duke of Orleans.
Today the island, which was first settled in 1648, is noted for its market gardens, orchards, dairy farms and historic buildings. Since its connection to the river's north shore by a bridge in 1935, it has become a popular tourist destination.
Sainte-Famille Parish is situated on the island's north side, near its east end and enjoys great views of the Beaupre coast and the Laurentian Mountains across the river.
The parish was founded in 1666 by Bishop de Laval, proprietor and seigneur of I'ile d'Orleans and was soon populated by 96 households who within three years had built a stone house of God.
Today's church, third on the site, was begun in 1743 and opened in 1746. It now serves almost 1,000 area inhabitants.
It is an impressive stone building, unusual for Quebec in having, in addition to its primary clocher (clock tower) above the front of the nave, two matching tours clochers at the corners of the fa‡ade.
Prominent on the church fa‡ade are statues not only of the three Holy Family members, but also Jesus' maternal grandparents, Anne and Joachim, popular church patrons in Quebec. The family members are separated with Jesus topmost, Mary and Joseph flanking the main fa‡ade window and Joachim and Anne (with a youthful Mary) at front door level.
The inscription above the church entrance expresses the plea "Jesu Maria Joseph Joachim Anna Succurrite Nobis 1745," that is "help us."
The patronage of the parish is appropriate too since Sainte-Famille is noted for its long established families and the great continuity of many village homes and farm houses.
In 1908, on the occasion of the tricentennial of Quebec, 11 parish families were recognized with medals for having lived on the same lot for more than two centuries.
In addition to those still occupied, some houses have become small restaurants, museums and craft shops.
Visitors to the island will find much more to explore - the genealogical centre in the old rectory and the other historic Ile d'Orleans churches.