Bouctouche owes its name to its first inhabitants, the Micmacs, who named their campground Chebouctou ‘Chebooktoosk’ which means « large little harbour ». The region, as well as Bouctouche itself, are part of two seigniories conceded to the Sieur de Chauffours in 1684 and to the Sieur du Plessis, naval treasurer, in 1696. However, the First Nations were the only inhabitants of Bouctouche until 1785 when the first Acadian families from Memramcook came to settle there.
These families built a wooden chapel around 1800. Later, Fr. Julien Rioux, first resident priest (1839-1854) would have the first church built at Pointe-à-Jacquot. The wooden bell tower was topped by a wrought iron cross.
The Immaculate Conception Convent opened its doors in 1880. Notre-Dame-du-Sacré-Coeur nuns made it one of the great teaching institutions in Acadie beginning in 1924. It was completely renovated after its closing and became a museum.
While the convent was being built, the parish also built a majestic neo-gothic style church with construction ending in 1898. Fire would destroy this church on December 18, 1921.
Most Rev. Philippe Hébert, priest from 1923 to 1940, laid the foundations for the new church, the Church of Saint-Jean Baptiste. From 1926 until 1954, parishioners celebrated mass in the basement of the present church which is situated in the heart of the village on Irving Boulevard. The sumptuous home built by Archibald Irving would become the new rectory and the old rectory would be transformed into a diocesan retreat house which would close its doors 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 faithful disciple of the style defined by monk and architect Dom Paul Bellot (1876-1944), is the architect of this place of worship considered to be a pure example of Dom Bellot-style architecture in Canada. Edgar Courchesne also trained under Bellot. He drew up the plans for many churches inspired by this dominant style in Quebec and in certain regions of the Maritimes from the 1940s to 1960s.
The heritage value of the Church of Saint-Jean Baptiste also stems from the importance of the works contained in the church. Its furnishings consist of works by many religious artists known in Canada, including Fernando Luchesi, Aurelio Hernandez, Antonin Hernandez, Joseph Guardo, Jean-Julien Bourgault, and Casavant.
Heritage value also lies in the history of its construction. The foundations of this church go back to 1926.. In 1954 Msgr. Désiré Allain saw to the building of this new church. For that work, he called on architect Edgar Courchesne and Acadian builder Abbey Landry. The blessing of the cornerstone of the Saint-Jean-Baptiste Church took place in 1955, the bicentennial year of the Acadian deportation, and the Church was consecrated in 1967, the centennial year of Canadian confederation.
Click on a thumbnail to see more pictures of the Church of St. John the Baptist – Bouctouche.
Archdiocese of Moncton
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