Project Description

A museum in a church, the history of the building

In 1867, the new Presbyterian Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul, built by the architect Frederic Lawford, was inaugurated. It stood in all its glory on Dorchester Blvd. (now René-Lévesque) at the corner of rue Sainte-Monique. Considered the most beautiful neo-gothic church in the city, it crowned the career of Frederick Lawford, who died before the end of construction.

In 1931, the Church was expropriated to make way for the construction of a train station. It was saved from destruction by the Pères de Sainte-Croix, who bought it for the symbolic amount of $1.00. In sixty days, the church was taken apart stone by stone and moved to the grounds of the Collège Saint-Laurent. There it was rebuilt as an almost exact replica of the original by the architect, Lucien Parent, to ready it for its new vocation as a Catholic chapel. Among the changes, an organ tribune, confessionals, a cross path and new stained glass windows were installed. It is also one storey high to accommodate the Salle Émile-Legault, the concert hall of the renowned Compagnons de Saint-Laurent. It became vacant following the secularization of the educational institution, was transformed into a museum under the aegis of Gérard Lavallée and opened its doors in January 1979.

The Museum’s impressive collection of more than 10 000 objects relating to traditional arts and crafts has given the building a new orientation. In the Fall of 2002, the Museum was also given a new look. The Marc Julien architectural firm redesigned the interior layout and brought out its original beauty while raising it to the standards required for a museum. Meanwhile, a new permanent exhibition called From Masters’s Hands opened in March 2003. In May 2017, the Museum received a grant to refurbish its permanent exhibition. The project is slowly taking shape and we look forward to the opening of the new permanent exhibition Art Matters which is scheduled for March 2019.

The stained glass windows

During the relocation, the original stained glass windows adorning the front of the church were re-used by the Presbyterian community for their new chapel situated on Sherbrooke street. To replace them, a new stained glass window was produced by master glass-maker Francis Chigot (1879-1960) from Limoges. Well-known for his work influenced by Art nouveau and Art Deco, he is also the creator of the historic stained glass windows of the Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal. However, the centerpiece of the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus dates back further to 1874 as it was taken from the previous college chapel. It was created and offered by the workshops of Carmen at Mans. It appears to be one of only two contributions from the Carmel of Mans workshop to the architectural heritage in North America.

Archive secrets on the transept windows

In 1932, Father Cousineau of the Sainte-Croix congregation received a letter from German glassmaker Karl Diemand containing a list of subjects for the transept stained glass windows. In 1933, he received another letter from Francis Chigot for the right transept. However, it appears that these projects were abandoned as the transept windows do not have any stained glass!


Here is a short video of one of our restoration of the stained glass windows of the museum:

The west stained glass window

A stained glass window dedicated to the Virgin Mary

Father Basile Antoine Moreau (1799-1873), the founder of the congregation of Sainte-Croix, had a particular devotion to Mary. He stated that: “A follower of Christ is also that of his mother, who he worships at the foot of the cross. It is to her that we send our morning greetings and our last words of the evening, and it is by her everlasting care that the renewed devotion on the month of Mary is present in Saint-Sulpice.” Mary has, therefore, become the patron saint of the congregation. In the center of the stained glass window, she wears a crown as queen of the congregation and appears on a cloud to represent her Assumption.

The saints surrounding the Virgin Mary

If the daises (windows) behind the saints are in the same form as that of the Virgin Mary, it suggests that these four saints have a special relationship with her, be it temporal or spiritual. The evangelists Luke and John, who are positioned closest, were close contemporaries of Mary. Saint John greeted the Virgin Mary after Christ was brought down from the cross. Jesus had said to his mother: “Mother, here is your son” and to the apostle: “John, here is your mother.” Saint Luke is the first portraitist of Mary (note the quill which he holds in his hand). As for Saint Dominic and Saint Bernard, from the middle ages, they are spiritually connected to the Virgin Mary. Saint Dominic is holding a Lilly (symbol of Marian purity) and has a star above his head as the Virgin Mary appeared to him. Saint Bernard is the founder of the Cistercians of which Mary is the model example of spiritual life.

The window contains an anachronic detail … Can you find it?
Saint Dominic is wearing work boots. This is a humoristic insight dedicated to the workmen that contributed to the reconstruction of the church.

The inscriptions
There are four symbolic messages. Would you be able to decipher them?

  • speculum justitiae (mirror of justice)
  • vas honorabile (vase of honour)
  • stella matutina (morning star)
  • janua coeli (doors of paradise)

Finally, examine the inscriptions in the lower right corner of the Virgin and Child and Saint Bernard panels.

The organ

The organ gallery was added during the reconstruction of the building in 1930 to receive the surviving organ from the Presbyterian Church. It is an 1868 Warren organ, modified and expanded by the addition of the Mitchell organ from St. Andrew’s Church in 1919.

With a view to its installation in the chapel of the College, the Casavant et frères de Saint-Hyacinthe house dismantled the organ and completely rebuilt it. It has been restored and upgraded to 5,459 pipes and 81 sets. Its current value is $900,000. For comparison, the organ at Saint Joseph’s Oratory, which ranks among the 10 most prestigious organs in the world, has 5,811 pipes and 78 stops!

Several famous organists played this imposing instrument whose pipes are spread throughout 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 buffets surmounted by flowering arrows, a vegetal ornament, were designed by Lucien Parent, the architect in charge of the removal and reconstruction of the chapel.

For safety reasons, a balustrade was added in 1998.