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History

History of the Museum

Moving the timeless

Opened in 1868 on Dorchester Boulevard (now René-Lévesque), at the corner of Sainte- Monique Street, St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church is considered the most beautiful neo-Gothic church in the City of Montreal. It is the crowning achievement of its architect’s (Frederick Lawford) career.

In 1929, the church is expropriated by the Canadian National Railway to make way for a railway station. It is saved from destruction thanks to the pères de Sainte-Croix, who purchase it in 1930 for the symbolic price of $1.

It is dismantled stone by stone in about 60 days. The stones are numbered and then moved to the grounds of Collège de Saint-Laurent, where it becomes the new chapel of the frères de Sainte-Croix. It is rebuilt on a concrete frame by architect Lucien Parent, who slightly modifies it for its new vocation as a Catholic chapel.

Among the additions are an organ loft, confessionals, the stations of the cross, and new stained-glass windows. It is also raised by one storey to accommodate the Émile-Legault performance hall, where the famous Compagnons de Saint-Laurent perform.

The chapel becomes vacant following the secularization of the educational institution in 1967 and is transformed into a museum under the aegis of Prof. Gérard Lavallée in 1975. In 1979, the Musée d’art de Saint-Laurent opens its doors. Its permanent exhibition will remain there until 2002, when renovations are carried out to better meet the needs of the public. In 2003, the museum changes its name to Musée des maîtres et artisans du Québec and, in 2004, presents its new permanent exhibition, Mains de maîtres.

In 2021, after several months of renovation work, the museum reopens under a new name: the MUMAQ-Musée des métiers d’art du Québec. Its new permanent exhibition, Witness Objects, presents Québec’s crafts from a new chronological perspective.

The stained glass

The original stained glass windows adorning the chancel and building façade do not follow when the church moves in 1930: they are reused by the Presbyterian community for their new Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul on Sherbrooke Street in Montreal, where they are still visible today. The new stained-glass windows made in the 1930s will therefore be adapted to the existing stone frames.

Archive secrets about the stained glass in the transepts

In 1932, Father Cousineau from the Sainte-Croix congregation receives a letter from the German glassmaker, Karl Diemand. The letter includes a list of subjects for the stained-glass windows in the transepts. In 1933, he receives a second one, this time from Francis Chigot, for the right transept. However, these projects clearly never materialize, because the transepts still do not have stained glass windows.

Stained glass window on the west façade

Stained glass window on the west façade

The western stained-glass window is made up of two parts. The central piece, Vierge à l’Enfant, made and given by the Carmel du Mans workshop in France in 1874, comes from the old College church. It may be one of only two contributions of the Carmelite stained-glass workshop to North American architectural heritage.

Francis Chigot (1879–1960), master glassmaker from Limoges, France, is asked, in 1932, to replace the other parts of the stained-glass window. Well known for his Art Nouveau and Art Deco-inspired works, he is also the author of the historic stained-glass windows of Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal.

Stained glass in the chancel

Inserted in the frame of the old Presbyterian stained glass window, the chancel’s stained glass is financed by a former student of the College, the Reverend Georges Chartier, and produced by Guillaume Ernest Raymond Pellus in 1931. Pellus, a French painter-decorator and master glassmaker, was active in Montreal from 1917 to 1933 and made many religious stained glass windows.

The central scene depicts the appearance of Jesus to Saint Mary Alacoque, according to the Sacred Heart devotion legend. This French nun, who experiences a divine revelation in 1675, is called to spread the worship of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She is canonized in 1920. Secondary stained-glass windows depict different scenes from the New Testament. Lily flowers, symbols of the French-Canadian Catholic faith, surround the main scene.

The organ

To accommodate the organ and choir saved from the Presbyterian church, the organ loft is added by Lucien Parent during the reconstruction of the building in 1930. The organ had previously been located in the center of the church, in the chancel. It is a Warren organ from 1868, modified and enhanced by the addition of the Mitchell organ from St. Andrew’s Church in 1919.

To prepare for its installation in the chapel of the College, Casavant Frères from Saint-Hyacinthe dismantle the organ in 1930 and completely rebuild it. The instrument is restored and enhanced to total 5,459 pipes and 81 pipe organ stops*. By comparison, the organ in St. Joseph’s Oratory, which ranks among the 10 most prestigious organs in the world, has 5,811 pipes and 78 organ stops!

Several famous organists have played this imposing instrument, whose pipes reach into the four corners of the building. Mute since the early 1970s, it was once considered one of the most versatile instruments in Canada.

The oak cases topped with floret arrows, a vegetal ornament, are designed by Lucien Parent, the architect in charge of moving and rebuilding the chapel.

Finally, for safety reasons, a railing is added to the organ loft in 1998.

 

*An organ stop is a row of organ pipes used to create a particular sound, more appropriately known as a rank.

MUMAQ: an impressive collection

The museum’s vocation is framed by more than 10,000 objects connected to the arts and craft traditions. In the fall of 2002, the museum is given a makeover: the architectural firm Marc Julien modifies the interior layout to improve visitors’ services and restore the beauty of this heritage building’s décor.

At the same time, a new permanent exhibition, called Mains de maître (The Master’s Hands), is inaugurated in March 2003. Then, in May 2017, the Museum receives a grant from the Québec Ministry of Culture and Communications to re-imagine a new permanent exhibition. The result is Witness Objects, the history of Québec’s crafts, which we are proud to present to you today.

New name, new look, new logo

Le Musée des maîtres et artisans du Québec (MMAQ) becomes le Musée des métiers d’art du Québec (le MUMAQ).

Logo - MUMAQ

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