Quebec will check the condition of the oldest church bell in Montreal

Quebec will go and check the condition of the oldest church bell in Montreal

The Church of the Visitation has almost a half dozen bells currently.

Is the bell of the Church of the Visitation, the oldest in Montreal, still crumbling under the snow in Rivière-du-Loup? Contacted by Metro, the current owner, Pierre-Luc Bastille, declined to comment on the subject.

“I have no comments to make on that,” Mr. Bastille reportedly told his secretary, who forwarded the message to us after several attempts to make contact.

However, the Ministry of Culture intends to verify that the current owner of the bell has taken the protective measures specified in the ministerial notice of January 26. Mr. Bastille has 60 days to make his point of view regarding the property known to the Conseil du patrimoine culturel du Québec.

“Within the period between the publication of the notice of intent to classify [ Editor's note: as a heritage object] and the opinion of the Cultural Heritage Council, the ministry will continue to study the file, in particular by traveling to the field to see the bell”, indicates to us in an email the Direction des communications et des affaires of the Ministry of Culture.

The attitude of Pierre-Luc Bastille worries the religious community of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Architect Jocelyn Duff, member of the Ahuntsic-Cartierville Historical Society (SHAC) doubts that the current owner wants to collaborate in the file. Two years ago, the community's attempts to engage with Mr. Bastille went awry.

We made him a buyout offer without a price and we told him that we wanted to acquire it and discuss it. He threw us a tantrum on the phone. He didn't have a good attitude. He called me back to apologize saying maybe he had an opening. Later we shall see. It’s a start.

Jocelyn Duff, architect and member of the Ahuntsic-Cartierville Historical Society

“I think he won’t be able to have this attitude indefinitely. The fact that the bell is [potentially] classified as a heritage object will bring it out of its torpor,” adds parish service coordinator Patrick Goulet.

Community celebration in preparation

The church is still waiting for the bell like the Sahara desert is waiting for the rain. In a room behind the pulpit, the parishioners have already determined a location to store it.

Quebec will go and check the condition of the oldest church bell in Montreal

Patrick Goulet, parish priest Philippe Barrucand and architect Jocelyn Duff next to the location that will house the original church bell

The room has sprinklers as well as motion detectors to secure the bell. There are already many valuable historical objects there, such as a temperance cross from the 1700s, a sundial from 1751, paintings of Saint Catherine of Alexandria from 1834, a reconstruction in image of the first mass in the presence of Samuel de Champlain at the edge of the river and statutes of yesteryear being repaired. “Here, it's been a perpetual construction site for 300 years,” notes Patrick Goulet.

The preparations for welcoming the bell will also involve the whole community, according to Patrick Goulet. “Eventually, we will have a big community party and after that we should secure it and highlight it here, because there are a lot of guided tours,” says Mr. Goulet. The latter regrets that the bell is the subject of a saga when it should be used to bring people together.

A bell brings people together. And it's a shame that the bell seems to divide. Before, we used the bell to gather people in front of the church, people were called in front of the church thanks to the bell.

Patrick Goulet, parish service coordinator

The bell of the Notre-Dame-de-Lorette chapel was made in France in 1732. It was imported to New France to be placed in the steeple of the Notre-Dame-de-Lorette chapel, which was built around 1700 in the native mission of Sault-au-Récollet.

During the 1990s, we lost track of the Bell. It finally reappeared in the early 2000s at an antique dealer in Quebec, where it was acquired to enter a private collection. The Church of the Visitation has been listed as a historical monument since 1974.

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