Church of Sainte-Marie National Historic Site of Canada
© Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada, J. Dufresne, 2004.
60 Notre-Dame South, Sainte-Marie, Quebec
Historic Sites and Monuments Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. H-4)
1857 to 1859
1861 to 1866
1887 to 1887
Event, Person, Organization:
Church of Sainte-Marie
Research Report Number:
Approved Inscription: 60 Notre-Dame South, Quebec
Built between 1857 and 1859 to a design by architect Charles Baillairgé, this church is a fine example of Gothic Revival churches found in French- Canadian parishes beginning in the 19th century. Inside, Gothic Revival architecture, with pointed arches accentuating the verticality of the space, blends with superb ornamentation by artist François-Édouard Meloche. The decoration is distinguished by well-executed paintings in trompe l'il, which gives the illusion of depth, and in grisaille, which uses shades of the same colour. The rich interior creates a striking contrast with the simple exterior of this church.
Description of Historic Place
The Church of Sainte-Marie National Historic Site of Canada is located at the heart of Sainte-Marie, Québec. The church, the main façade of which overlooks Marguerite-Bourgeois Avenue, is bordered by Notre Dame Street on the west side, a parking lot on the east and the rectory on the south. The Church of Sainte-Marie is a romantic Gothic Revival style building, built in the 19th century in the shape of a Latin cross with a semi-circular chevet connected to an irregularly shaped sacristy. The official recognition refers to the building on its footprint at the time of designation.
The Church of Sainte-Marie was designated as a national historic site of Canada in 2005 because: it is distinguished by its impressive interior decoration: designed by architect Charles Baillairgé, the interior is a unique interpretation of the Gothic Revival style that melds harmoniously with the fine trompe-l'oeil and grisaille paintings by artist François-Édouard Meloche.
The heritage value of the Church of Sainte-Marie lies in the fact that it is a fine example of a romantic Gothic Revival church, a concept expressed in its relatively simple exterior arrangement as well as its gothic components, which are simply applied to the surface of the building rather than being incorporated into the architecture. In contrast to the sober exterior of the church, the interior has an impressive décor, created by Charles Baillairgé and François-Édouard Meloche.
Inspired by the style of 14th-century English Gothic churches, the church opens to a grand, blue-and-gold interior, with boldly sculpted quatrefoils, rib arches and clustered columns. The modern-day interior is almost identical to that which Baillairgé created in his time, except for the painted décor that replaced the original white and gold. This décor, created by François-Édouard Meloche of Montréal, is the most striking aspect when one enters the church. Meloche excelled in trompe-l’oeil painting: he created the illusion of three-dimensional ornamentation on a two-dimensional surface. Meloche also painted the beautiful little grisaille paintings of the patriarchs of the Old Testament that hang over the gallery windows, as well as the four colour paintings in the choir depicting the life of the Virgin Mary.
Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board Minutes, June 2005.
The main elements that contribute to the heritage value of this historic site include: its location at the heart of Sainte-Marie; the composition of its main symmetrical façade incorporating Gothic elements, including the three doors topped by a pointed arch transom on the ground level, the pointed arch centre window and two sidelights on the second level, the corner buttresses and pinnacles with shafts at the central and side entrances, and the tower with a rose window and a pointed arch window, topped with a bell tower in the middle; the nave, the aisles and the transepts, all surmounted by a gable roof, and the apse, surmounted by a conical roof; the walls of the nave, including five openings with pointed arches; the buttresses with pinnacles, as well as the two windows and the oculus in the transepts; the vault with pointed arches in the crossing and multiple ribs resting on clustered columns above the choir, the central nave and the galleries; the sloping flat vault with octagonal caissons decorating the side chapels and the aisles; the walls and ceilings of the vault, finished in polished plaster with decorations made of plain or sculpted plaster and painted muted blue and grey with gilded accents; the clustered columns in the nave and choir, with sculpted plaster capitals that spread to form the vault; the broken arches in the choir, which end in a cap decorated with angels; the walls of the church, decorated with trompe-l’oeil paintings, particularly around the openings, as well as the stations of the Cross on the walls of the aisles between the windows; the fourteen grisaille paintings depicting women and men from the Old Testament above the windows on the long sides of the galleries; the Gothic Revival main altar, made of white wood with gilded highlights, of which the niches are adorned with small gilded statues; hanging above is a painting of the Immaculate Conception; the double-glazed windows, with stained glass on the inside and regular glass on the outside; the sculpted wood pulpit overlooking the nave; the high relief of the Madonna of the Crusades, made of gilded wood with bright colours, which dates from the late 17th or early 18th century; the walls and ceilings finished in polished plaster painted white and yellow in the sacristy; the half-timbered walls and the floors covered with rubberized vinyl; the decoration in the sacristy, including portraits of priests who have led the parish and a white wood altar with gilded mouldings.