Bouctouche owes its name to the Micmacs, the area’s first inhabitants, who called their campground Chebouctou or ‘Chebooktoosk,’ meaning “large little harbor.” The region and Bouctouche itself were part of two seigniories granted to Sieur de Chauffours in 1684 and Sieur du Plessis, a naval treasurer, in 1696. However, the First Nations remained the sole inhabitants of Bouctouche until 1785 when the first Acadian families from Memramcook settled there.
Around 1800, these families constructed a wooden chapel. Later, Fr. Julien Rioux, the first resident priest (1839-1854), oversaw the construction of the first church at Pointe-à-Jacquot, which featured a wooden bell tower adorned with a wrought iron cross.
In 1880, the Immaculate Conception Convent opened and, beginning in 1924, the Notre-Dame-du-Sacré-Coeur nuns transformed it into a renowned educational institution in Acadie. After its closure, the convent was extensively renovated and repurposed as a museum.
Simultaneously, the parish constructed a majestic neo-gothic church, completed in 1898. Unfortunately, a fire destroyed this church on December 18, 1921.
Most Rev. Philippe Hébert, the priest from 1923 to 1940, laid the foundation for the new Church of Saint-Jean Baptiste. Parishioners attended mass in the basement of the current church, located in the heart of the village on Irving Boulevard, from 1926 to 1954. Archibald Irving’s luxurious home became the new rectory, while the old one was transformed into a diocesan retreat house, which closed in 1929.
Most Rev. Désiré Allain, parish priest from 1940 to 1967, would see to the construction of the present Church of Saint-Jean Baptiste.
Québécois architect Edgar Courchesne, a devout follower of monk and architect Dom Paul Bellot (1876-1944), designed this place of worship, which is considered a prime example of Dom Bellot-style architecture in Canada. Courchesne, who trained under Bellot, created plans for numerous churches inspired by this dominant style in Quebec and certain Maritime regions from the 1940s to 1960s..
The Church of Saint-Jean Baptiste’s heritage value also stems from the significant works housed within. Its furnishings comprise creations by various renowned religious artists in Canada, including Fernando Luchesi, Aurelio Hernandez, Antonin Hernandez, Joseph Guardo, Jean-Julien Bourgault, and Casavant.
The church’s heritage value is further highlighted by its construction history. Its foundations date back to 1926. In 1954, Msgr. Désiré Allain oversaw the building of the new church, enlisting architect Edgar Courchesne and Acadian builder Abbey Landry for the task. The Saint-Jean-Baptiste Church’s cornerstone was blessed in 1955, during the bicentennial year of the Acadian deportation, and the church was consecrated in 1967, coinciding with the centennial year of Canadian confederation.
Click on a thumbnail to see more pictures of the Church of St. John the Baptist – Bouctouche.
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