Backgrounder

Designed and built in 1939-1940, Our Lady of the Assumption Cathedral speaks to the history of the Acadian people. Decorative elements related to their religious and secular history are found throughout the cathedral; these include an exterior sculpture of the Virgin Mary, patron saint of the Acadians, and stained glass windows depicting significant religious and historical events. Its exterior architecture is an accomplished and eclectic blend of Gothic Revival and Art Deco styles, while the interior draws from the Romanesque style. Built to affirm the Acadian identity and pay tribute to their resilience, its construction mobilized the Acadian community and diaspora behind a project to erect the first large-scale building commemorating them as a distinct people. The cathedral is associated with the establishment of the Archdiocese of Moncton in 1937 and embodies the final phase of the Acadian Renaissance. This place of worship continues to be a tangible symbol of the achievements of Acadians throughout their history.

Built according to plans drafted by the architect Louis Napoléon Audet (1881-1971), the cathedral measures about 70 metres long by 43 metres wide. In addition to the church, the building includes two chapels, two sacristies, and many rooms located on multiple floors. Many of its decorative elements refer to the Acadian people and their history. Inside the church, the crowns (capitals) on the pillars facing the main altar were carved by Acadian craftspeople and depict objects associated with various trades practised by the Acadians throughout their history. The two large stained-glass windows in the cathedral transepts depict significant events in the religious and secular history of Acadia and its people.

Our Lady of the Assumption Cathedral is the physical manifestation of the culmination of decades of efforts by Acadians to win recognition for their presence, their demographic importance, and their legitimate rights as full citizens in the political, social, economic, cultural, and religious contexts of the Maritime provinces. The construction project was supported by Acadians in the archdiocese, the Maritime provinces, Quebec, Louisiana, and New England.

The cathedral stands on the former site of a crypt and unfinished chapel that was used as a place of worship in the first French-speaking parish in Moncton, which was itself born out of the breaking up of St. Bernard’s Parish in 1914. The cathedral is the achievement of this parish’s first archbishop, Mgr. Louis-Joseph-Arthur Melanson (1879-1941). Acadians in New Brunswick and the Maritime provinces consider it to be a crown jewel of their architectural heritage, and its historical and heritage value stems in large part from the associative and symbolic values conferred on it by the Acadian community.