The Acadian Cathedral: the Monument of Remembrance

Louis N. Audet - Notre Dame de l'Assomption Cathedral of Moncton, N.B. © Hayward Studios/Library and Archives Canada/PA-069130

For the Week of Monday, April 22, 2019.

On April 24, 1939, the construction of Our Lady of Assumption Cathedral began in Moncton, New Brunswick. It is a significant example of modern Acadian architectural heritage.

After Pope Pius XI created the Archdiocese of Moncton in 1936, Archbishop Louis-Joseph Arthur Melanson announced plans to build the cathedral. In 1938, he commissioned Quebec architect Louis-Napoleon Audet (1881–1971) to design the mammoth structure. Audet was an associate of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada and a specialist in religious architecture. He previously designed such churches as Saint-Michel Cathedral in Sherbrooke, Quebec, and his masterwork, the Basilica at Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, Quebec. Approximately $45,000 (more than $790,000 today) worth of stone from a quarry in Shediac, New Brunswick, went into the building of the Moncton cathedral.

The exterior architecture is mostly Art Deco with a few subtle nods to the Gothic Revival style. The Art Deco style is characterized by clean, angular geometrical patterns with simple repeating decorative motifs. The interior is essentially Romanesque Revival, inspired from a medieval architectural style that combines massive stone walls with tall, thin windows, and round arched vaults. Of note in the Moncton cathedral are the carved column capitals, which depict scenes from everyday Acadian life of the late 1930s, such as farming, fishing and transportation.

Several artists contributed to the exterior and interior design of the cathedral. For example, French artist Auguste Labouret designed the some of the cathedral’s intricate stained-glass windows, which depict religious stories and important events from Acadian history. Italian sculptor Sebastiano Aiello carved several statues for the exterior of the Cathedral and a 4.5-metre sculpture of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, the patron saint of Acadie. Renowned Acadian artist Claude Roussel carved a series of four Carrara marble statues of four saints, which adorn the interior.

The Cathedral was completed in 1955, the year of the bicentenary of the Acadian Deportation: in 1755, Acadians were required to swear allegiance and bear arms for Britain or be forcibly removed from, what was then, the British colony of Nova Scotia. The Cathedral stands as a testament to the resilience and achievements of the Acadians.

Our Lady of Assumption Cathedral is a designated national historic site.

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