Before 1872, the residents of Petit-Sault (now Edmundston) had to travel to Saint-Basile to attend religious services. Over time, the small settlement at the junction of the Madawaska and Saint John Rivers grew.
In 1872, a mission named Notre Dame du Petit-Sault or Notre Dame de Madawaska was founded. James Rogers, Bishop of the Diocese of Chatham, approved the construction of a small chapel on land donated by Mr. Francis Rice. For eight years, priests from Saint-Basile came to celebrate mass every Sunday.
By 1880, Petit-Sault had grown to include 102 families, prompting residents to request a resident priest from religious authorities. Consequently, Bishop Rogers elevated the missions of Saint-Jacques and Notre Dame du Petit-Sault to parish status, appointing Father Louis-Côme D’Amours as their leader.
Initially residing in Saint-Jacques, Father D’Amours later moved to Costello House on Canada Street, which was provided by Petit-Sault’s parishioners. In 1881, construction of the first church began, opening for worship the following summer. The original chapel was then repurposed as a presbytery.
Father D’Amours dedicated 28 years to establishing the parish before passing away on March 3, 1908. On March 23, Father William J. Conway succeeded him, serving for 53 years until his death on January 16, 1961. Father Conway’s extraordinary devotion led to the construction of the present cathedral and presbytery.
The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, remarkable for its architecture, was inaugurated on February 20, 1927, a work realized thanks to the zeal of Father William J. Conway and the generosity of the parishioners. He enlarged the convent of the Daughters of Wisdom, saw to the construction of the Educational Center and Mont Sainte-Marie. He also built the church and the parsonage of St. Joseph, which was a mission served by the Immaculate Conception.
The craftsmanship exhibited in the building in terms of its nature, scale and location, have made it a landmark and focal point.
The original building plans were developed by architects Beaulé and Morissette of Quebec City who employed a blend of Gothic and Romanesque styles.
The interior and exterior decorations are the result of numerous professional artisans such as Nincheri, Bonnet, Laporte and Bourgault.
In terms of interior building materials, of particular interest is the use of 21 types of stone and marble from Europe, Africa and North America, these combined, result in the associated aesthetic value of the place. Mgr. W.J. Conway instigated the construction of the building as well a number of other buildings in the region.
Resource: Diocese of Edmundston
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