Description of Historic Place
The Church of Notre-Dame-de-la-Présentation National Historic Site of Canada is a large stone church built in 1924 in the Romanesque Revival style. The walls and ceiling of the interior are decorated with fifteen large paintings, and a variety of symbols and decorative motifs executed by Quebec artist Ozias Leduc and his assistant, Gabrielle Messier, between 1942 and 1955. The paintings include nine scenes based on biblical narratives, and six scenes depicting local religious and social history. The church is located on extensive grounds overlooking the Saint-Maurice River in the town of Shawinigan-Sud. The formal recognition is limited to the church building on its footprint.
The Church of Notre-Dame-de-la-Présentation was designated a national historic site of Canada in 2003 because:
- its iconographic program, executed between 1942 and 1955 by the well-known artist Ozias Leduc, is a remarkable expression of religious themes and scenes inspired by the history and activities of the region, to which the artist has given both a personal and spiritual interpretation, imbued with Symbolism; and,
- its iconographic program is marked by the originality of its composition and theme, as well as its great evocative power, making it Leduc's ultimate artistic statement and a work that was entirely unique in his career and his time.
The interior of the Church of Notre-Dame-de-la-Présentation was painted by well-known Quebec artist Ozias Leduc (1864-1955) with the assistance of Gabrielle Messier (1904-2003). Executed during the last 13 years of Leduc’s life, the decorative program at Notre-Dame-de-la-Présentation represents the culmination of his work, illustrating the influence of the Symbolist movement on his thematic and artistic approach. The decorative program also marks the end of the great era of religious mural painting in Quebec.
The painted interior is remarkable for the originality and quality of individual paintings, as well as for the iconographic unity of the entire decorative program. Leduc sought to give prominence to everyday life and local settings within the context of sacred painting. In Leduc’s work, human and religious experience are visually and symbolically united. Nine paintings, situated in the further reaches of the choir and nave, depict traditional religious themes derived from biblical narrative. Six paintings located in closer proximity to the congregation, depict historical and social themes connected to the religious and industrial history of the Mauricie region. The paintings are surrounded and visually united by ornamental bands, inscriptions, and geometric, symbolic and emblematic motifs painted directly on the walls and ceiling. The decorative program is executed in the Symbolist style popular during the early 20th century, incorporating concrete objects to depict allegorical truths. The use of flowing lines, filtered light and soft colours give the paintings a mystical quality appropriate to the spiritual subject matter.
Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, December 2003.
Key elements which relate to the heritage value of the Church of Notre-Dame-de-la-Présentation include:
- the interior decoration of the church, consisting of 15 paintings and various ornamental bands, inscriptions, and motifs;
- nine paintings depicting traditional religious themes taken from biblical narrative: The Divine Glory, The Presentation of Mary at the Temple, The Crowning of the Virgin, The Annunciation, The Holy Family in the Workshop, The Temptation of Jesus in the Desert, The Temptation of Adam and Eve, and two paintings of Worshipping Angels;
- two paintings illustrating the religious and social history of the area: The Vision of Father Buteux and The Death of Father Buteux;
- four paintings depicting trades associated with the colonization and industrialization of the Mauricie region, and representing the agricultural, forestry, pulp and paper and aluminum manufacturing sectors, entitled The Woodcutter, The Sower, The Millworker, and The Foundry Worker;
- religious motifs painted above each window and above some of the paintings, including the Holy Spirit, the eye of God, the blessing hand of God, and the cross;
- ornamental bands surrounding and uniting the paintings and motifs;
- the composition, presentation and overall arrangement of the decorative program, including the physical and symbolic relationship of paintings, painted motifs and symbols;
- evidence of the marouflage technique, by which the paintings are affixed to the walls;
- the Symbolist approach, evident in the composition and content of each painting, and in the program as a whole;
- the inclusion of aspects which typify Leduc’s work, including flowing and sinuous lines, soft colours, filtered light and a mysterious atmosphere;
- the inclusion of references to local geography and social history, and the prominence given to these themes.