1615, the Year of the First Masses in Quebec

Quebec City and Montreal, rivals since 1615... for centuries and centuries.

During the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the Recollect Franciscans in New France, we learned - some of us with astonishment - that this country's first Mass was celebrated near the Rivière des Prairies on the island of Montreal on June 24, 1615.

We know little of all the historical and literary research that brought these facts to light.

Firstly, Samuel de Champlain had left no written record of having celebrated Mass on June 24. Historians established that Mass was celebrated for the first time in Montreal on June 24 by simple deduction, due to the information found in the letters written by the Franciscan Recollect brothers Gabriel Sagard and Jean Dolbeau, in the Mémoire of the Recollects (1637), and in Premier établissement de la foi en Nouvelle-France (1691).

The written works reveal that the Recollect priests Jamet and Le Caron arrived at the Rivière des Pairies, where they remained until their departure for the "the country of the Hurons." It was only later on that Father Jamet went to Quebec City by canoe, stopping in Trois-Rivières along the way. There, he celebrated Mass. It was July 26, 1615, which was established as the official date of the first Mass in Trois-Rivières. (Georges Morin, o.f.m., "26 juillet 1615 : La première messe à Trois-Rivières" [July 26, 1615: The First Mass in Trois-Rivières])

Brother Sagard wrote in a letter, referring to Quebec City: "He (Father Dolbeau) said the first Mass there on the 25th day in June of the same year (1615)...." [Translation] This was the date when Mass was celebrated for the first time in Quebec City.

Furthermore, another letter, this one written by Father Dolbeau, confirmed Sagard's information: "On June 25th, in the absence of Reverend Father Commissaire, I celebrated Holy Mass, the first to have been said in this country, whose inhabitants are truly savage in every aspect" [Translation] (Letter cited by Fr. LeClercq, Premier Etablissement de la Foy [First Establishment of the Faith], v.1. pp.62-65).

However, the Mémoire of the Recollects (1637) states that "the first Mass that was ever spoken in New France, was celebrated (...) at the Rivière des Prairies, and the second in Quebec City." [Translation]

Who should we believe? Those in favour of Quebec City, or those in favour of Montreal?

It's Champlain who scores! "After having describing the ceremony of the Mass on the shores of the Rivière des Prairies, in which he participated next to fathers Jamet and Le Caron, he said that he had arrived in Quebec City on June 26. As the trip down the St. Lawrence River from Montreal to Quebec City required at least two days, it can be inferred that the Mass must have been celebrated near the Rivière des Prairies before June 25. We believe that it is difficult to conclude otherwise." [Translation] (Explanatory Notes, Note A (Book 2, ch.1, p. 5) "Où fut célébrée la première messe en Canada" [Where the First Mass in Canada was Celebrated] p.372).

Father Laverdière wrote: "...the Mémoire is correct, (...) the first Mass ever spoken in this country, since the time of Jacques Cartier, was celebrated along the Rivière des Prairies by Father Commissaire it appears, and the second in Quebec City, by Father d'Olbeau" [Translation] (Explanatory Notes, p.373).

1-0 Montreal.


Comment by Richard woodland | 2017-08-02

I would like to know about the documented masses that took place on quebecs lower north shore in the 1500's
What is the sum of 8 and 8?*

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