Feb 28 2022 - Feb 28 2022

A bishop and his architect

June 13, 2020 to January 2, 2022
Curators: Raymonde Gauthier and Ginette Laroche

The exhibition

The architect Victor Bourgeau (1809-1888), who exerted something of a monopoly in the diocese of Montreal during the bishopric of Monsignor Ignace Bourget (1799-1885), helped shape the city by building several large convent complexes, including the Hôtel-Dieu for the Hospitallers of Saint Joseph and the Grey Nuns’ convent.
The exhibition is the first major retrospective devoted to Bourgeau’s work, from his beginnings as a craftsman carpenter to his rise as 19th-century Montreal’s best known architect. A number of original works, most never exhibited before, attest to his knowledge of the different architectural trends widely disseminated through publications of the time. These Gothic, Baroque and Romanesque revival styles also influenced the designs for interiors and religious furniture that are a lesser known facet of his practice.
Victor Bourgeau constructed over three hundred buildings in Quebec. For the first time, the exhibition brings together many previously unseen original plans in the architect’s own hand.
Plow plane (19th century, RHSJM Collection)
In woodworking, a plow plane is used to make tongues and grooves. In Victor Bourgeau’s time architectural training was not institutionalized or regulated by a professional order, and he learned the woodworker’s craft from his family. During the 1830s, he and two of his brothers were members of a team of carpenters who travelled throughout the Montreal region making church repairs.
Exterior side view of the Church of Saint-Pierre-Apôtre (photographer unknown, undated, Richelieu, Archives of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Notre-Dame-du-Cap Province)
It was with the construction of the Church of Saint-Pierre-Apôtre, begun in 1851, that Victor Bourgeau first became known as an architect. After the church was completed, he who the bishop of Montreal, Monsignor Bourget, described as having so far had a “modest career” became the official architect for the vast diocese.
The Hôtel-Dieu of Montreal (Notman Studio, early 20th century, RHSJM Archives)
Consisting of a hospital, a monastery, a chapel and an orphanage, the convent complex Victor Bourgeau began building for the Hospitallers in 1859 would be modern, offering the most up-to-date facilities. Construction of the Hôtel-Dieu was part of Monsignor Bourget’s plan to establish a series of charitable establishments, most of which would be designed and built by Victor Bourgeau. They included those run by the Grey Nuns and the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd.
  • Feb 28 2022 - Feb 28 2022

  • Paul Labonne