Father Marcoux arrived at the village in the year 1819. He completed the construction of the church at a cost of ten thousand dollars. St. Francis Xavier Mission was first established in 1667 at Laprairie, which is located 15 km downstream from present day Kahnawake.. During the next fifty years the community moved four times, until they finally decided to stay where they built the fort in 1716, which is present day Kahnawake.

The first church, completed in 1720, had become too small by the 1820’s and was in need of major structure repairs. In 1831 a new sacristy was built onto the church as well as a new tower and steeple on the southside. Once this was done, a new and bigger church was built around the entire old church. This was done in 1845 and the design was planned by the mission pastor, Father Joseph Marcoux, with the help of Father Felix Martin, S.J.

The original rectory (1720) building is still standing to this day.

The Mission owes part of the main alter to P. LaBrosse or G. Boivin of the eighteenth century. The alter was completed and then made fancier a whole century later by V. Chartrand, a disciple of Quevillon. The sanctuary lamp, made of solid silver, was a gift from a Parisian donor during the French Regime (before the 1750’s)

The ceiling paintings represent scenes from the New Testament and from Catholic tradition (v.g. the apostheosis of St. Francis-Xavier). They were painted between 1924-1928 by an Italian artist named Guido Nincheri, he also decorated several Montreal churches.

The paintings above the side alters ( the Immaculate Conception, on the left side; St. Louis, King of France in prayer, on the right side) were given to the Mission around the year 1826 by King Charles X of France. An older painting of the dying St. Francis Xavier hung for more than one hundred years behind the main alter, but it was replaced in the early 1930’s by the large crucifix that still remains intact to this day. The crucifix was a gift to the community of Kahnawake in honor of the thirty-five men from the village that lost their lives in August 1907 in the collapse of the Quebec Bridge Disaster.

The Stations of the Cross were made by the Carli-Petrucci Co.(Milan) and bought from their Montreal store by the local community in 1926. The Stations are unique to the community of Kahnawake as the captions underneath the pictures replace the French language with the Mohawk language, this was done in 1928.

The Ursuline Nuns of Quebec City donated the statue of the child Jesus with globe on the top of the Tabernacle to the Mission between 1671 and 1700.

The wooden statues of St. Ignatius of Loyola and of St. Francis-Xavier were given to the Mission by Louis T. Berlinguet in the year 1845. The statue of Blessed Kateri atop the main alter was carved by well-known Quebec artist Medard Bourgault in the year 1941.

Blessed Kateri’s Tomb was solemly blessed by Bishop G.M. Coderre on December 17, 1972. The tomb is made of Carrara marble. The statue behind the tomb was carved in 1981 by Quebec sculptor Leo Arbour. Kateri Tekakwitha, the “Lily of the Mohawks”, was born in 1656 at Ossernenon, today Auriesville N.Y. She was baptized at Fonda, N.Y. at the age of twenty in the year 1676, she took refuge at Kahnawake the following year. After three years of intense spiritual life devoted to the native community, she died there on April 17, 1680. Since then Kateri has become known around the world for her saintly way of life. Kateri was declared Venerable in 1943 and then Blessed in 1980.

The tabernacle located in the sacristy is believed to have been carved in the early 1800’s by Quebec sculptor Belleville. The reredos may be much older and they have the same style as the one in the former Jesuit church in Quebec City (the late 1600’s).

The room between the sacristy and the rectory was added to the church in 1914 and is presently a small museum displaying antique sacred vessels, old printed prayer books, a few manuscripts and some native ethnic valuables. Worthy of note concerning the artifacts in the museum are an old desk used in the spring of 1722 by Fr. F.-X. Charlevoix, S.J.,

author of the monumental “History and General Description of New France”; the earliest known painting of Blessed Kateri, given by Fr. Claude Chauchetiere, S.J., and possibly dating back to the 1690’s, a solid silver monstrance (1668) and ciborium (1687-91) from France; an ivory crucifix brough back from France in the fall of 1680 by Fr. Jacques Fremin; and finally some manuscripts of Gregorian Chant (with Mohawk text underlaid) and Mohawk-French grammer both from the 1800’s.

The old 1720 rectory, recently restored, is also worth a visit. A walk on the promenade along the old Fort St. Louis (1725) wall offers a beautiful view across the St. Lawrence River to Montreal, as well as a view of the Mission complex.

Have a look around Saint Francis Xavier Mission. A more complete 360 Panorama will be put into place in the coming weeks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kateri's Life | Kateri's Trail | How Kateri will become a saint | Kahnawake |

Fonda & Auriesville, NY | Saint Francis Xavier Mission and Fort Saint Louis |

The Kateri Center