Quebec Studies

"A Devotion Which … Distinguishes this People from all Others"—The Cult of Saint Anne and the Making of the Colonial Community in Seventeenth-Century New France

Quebec Studies (2011), 51, (1), 3–20.

Abstract

3 "A Devotion Which...Distinguishes this People from all Others"— The Cult of Saint Anne and the Making of the Colonial Community in Seventeenth-Century New France Mary Dunn Saint Louis University "Nothing," wrote Bishop François de Laval in 1680, "has helped us more efficaciously to bear the burden of Our pastoral office in this young church than the special devotion which all the inha­ bitants of this country bear towards Saint Anne, a devotion which, We can affirm with certitude, distinguishes this people from all others." — Cited in Morel, 1662-16671 Indeed, an almost exaggerated preference for Anne seems to have informed the religious world of the Canadian colony from its very beginnings. As legend has it, Jacques Cartier himself, along with his crew, was the first to celebrate the feast of Anne on colonial soil. Menaced by storms during the course of his second voyage to the new world in 1535, Cartier and his crew called out to Anne for help and soon found his fleet of ships safely reunited. On July 26, the day of Anne's feast, the sailors gathered on the Canadian shore and rendered thanks to Anne for her intercession and assistance (LeFebvre 6-7; Belanger 10-11). Nearly one hundred years later, as legend again has it, Samuel Champlain visited Auray as a pilgrim before setting sail to New France under the protection and patronage of Saint Anne (LeFebvre 7). Over the course of the seventeenth century, Anne would come to play an increasingly prominent role in the devotional lives of colonial settlers in New France, as indicated by the proliferation of chapels and churches ded­ icated to the saint, including the chapels dedicated to Saint Anne in the Ursuline monastery (1667) and the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Québec (1647), and the churches of Sainte Anne de Varennes near Montréal (1693), Sainte-Anne of Pointe Saint-Charles (1698), Sainte-Anne de Bellevue (1710), and Sainte-Anne of Pérade near Trois-Rivières (1714), the emergence of the church of Sainte-Anne-du-Petit-Cap (now Beaupré) as "a place of pilgrim­ age where one goes all year round," and Anne's status as the most popular and effective miracle-worker in the young colony (Mandements I, 206).2 So prominent, in fact, had Anne become within the pantheon of colonial saints that in 1667 Bishop Laval saw fit to declare Anne's feast a holy day of oblig­ ation for all of New France. In the following article, I consider a diversity of evidence pertaining to Anne's cult in seventeenth-century New France, from sermons to Episco­ pal pronouncements to ex-voto paintings to archival records preserved at the Basilica of Saint-Anne-de-Beaupré (founded in 1658), to make the argu­ ment that the conspicuous place of Anne within the context of Catholicism in New France gestures to the ways in which devotion to Anne functioned Québec Studies, Volume 51, Spring/Summer 2011

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Dunn, Mary