François de Laval

First bishop of Quebec

François de Montmorency-Laval was born on April 30th 1623, in Montigny-sur-Avre, a village of the Chartres diocese in France. His father was Hugues de Laval, knight, lord of Montigny; his mother, was Michelle de Péricard.

Hugues de Laval belonged to the Montmorency family, one of the most illustrious of France. In the XIIIth century, one of his ancestors, Mathieu de Montmorency wed Emme de Laval of the noble Laval family in a second marriage, with the understanding that the children would bear the Laval name and arms. His son, Guy de Montmorency, issued from this second marriage, took the Laval name and let the Montmorency name to the elder branch of the family from the first marriage. Under the Laval name, he was head of the younger branch of the Montmorency family; Monseigneur de Laval is from this branch. The prelate never took the name Montmorency himself; he always signed, in ledgers or elsewhere, "François de Laval", as belonging to the younger branch.

François de Laval did his classical studies at the Jesuit college of La Flèche. He was ordained a priest on May first 1647. Named apostolic vicar of New France he was ordained Bishop of Pétrée on December 8th, 1658. He arrived in Quebec on June 16th, 1659 to organize the Catholic Church in this country, as yet still a mission.

Devotion and spirituality

François de Laval exercised his ministry with zeal and generosity. He is a man of asceticism and prayer; two important devotions govern his life: the Holy Family and the Holy Angels. In all seasons, he regularly visits his diocese. It is reported that the present Royale avenue in Beauport, then known as the "Chemin du Roy", was traced by none other than the Lord Bishop of Laval.

His pastoral solicitude is shown to all. He wished for the evangilizaton of the Indians. He fought so their dignity be respected, by opposing the merchants who exploited them with fire-water.

Foundations and significant dates

On March 26th 1663, Monseigneur de Laval founded the Séminaire de Québec [Quebec Seminary]; royal approbation is given in the following month. This seminary will "furnish clergymen to the Quebec Church".

On September 18th 1663, he took part in the inauguration of the new Sovereign Council.

On March 14th 1665, by mandate, he established the Confrérie de la Sainte-Famille [Holy Family Brotherhood] in Quebec.

On October 9th 1668, he founded the Petit Séminaire [Lower Seminary] where eight young Canadians and six Hurons studied to become priests.

On October first, 1674, Clement X signed in Rome the Papal bull establishing the Canon of the Quebec diocese; the parochial church thus becomes a cathedral and the Quebec parish no longer exists.

On August 6th 1676, by Canon, he recognizes the Congrégation des filles séculières de Notre-Dame de Montréal [Congregation of the Secular Daughters of Our Lady of Montreal], founded by Marguerite Bourgeoys.

In 1678, he laid the first stone of the Seminary as such; the building will be habitable in 1681, but work continued for 20 years. On November 3rd 1684, by Canon he established several parishes, one among them was "La Nativité de Notre-Dame de Beauport".

On November 12th 1684, by Canon, he established the Quebec Chapter which already existed since quite some time.

François de Laval died in Quebec on May 8th 1708, at 85 years old. Since the Seminary chapel, burnt down in 1705 was not yet rebuilt, his wish to be buried there cannot be fulfilled. His body is therefore buried in the crypt of the cathedral.

The Blessed François de Laval

François de Laval, beatified on June 22th 1980 by Pope John-Paul II is represented by a bronze recumbent figure in the style of the Middle Ages; he lies in a funeral chapel inaugurated on May 29th 1993.

François de Laval, beatified on June 22th 1980 by Pope John-Paul II, has been declared Holly men by Pope Francis on April 3rd 2014. He is represented by a bronze recumbent figure in the style of the Middle Ages; he lies in a funeral chapel inaugurated on May 29th 1993.

This chapel is located in the Quebec Cathedral. Placed looking up to heaven, the recumbent figure recalls the blessed life of the bishop . He is clothed in his bishop garments and lies in state in the diocese for which he was responsible.

A map of the burgeoning diocese stretching from Gaspé to Louisiana is etched on the polished black granite floor of the chapel.

The Family: an important value

The figures represented on the outer wall of the chapel tell of the important value that marked his apostolic actions: the family. In 1664, he established the Confrérie de la Sainte-Famille [Holy Family Brotherhood.

Two families are found on either side of the long glass window: an Indian one and one of French origin. The children seem to act as go-betweens for the two cultures.

At the centre, a replica of the lead plate which was on the original tomb of Monseigneur de Laval attests that his remains are buried there.

To complete the work, a river recalls the main means of communication to ensure the evangelism of this mission land.

This translation has been made possible by the gracious help of Mrs Louise Blais-Leroux, P.Eng.

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Document mis à jour le 26 juin 1998 et modifié le 21 mai 2014.