Something old, something new

  • June 19, 2008

It should not be suprising that here in Quebec City, the cradle of Christendom in North America, that the liturgies have been surpassingly beautiful. There is a veritable cornucopia of worship services to attend, from the large daily Masses in the Pepsi Colliseum at the Expo City to the Adoration chapels, to the many Vespers and prayer services that happen daily at many of Quebec's historic churches.

But the most striking services are held in the Colliseum, where the focus is on a starkly simple round sanctuary and altar in the middle of what is normally an arena. It is composed of natural wood and features a round altar composed of crosses and images inspired by the Greek chi ro, commonly known as the symbol for Christ on the cross. All lines and features of the stage draw the eye to the altar. Even the aisles leading to the altar form a cross on the floor and the ambo faces the altar (those speaking there actually face more than half the congregation).


Cyrille-Gauvin Francoeur is the artistic director for the congress and is the muse behind the altar and other motifs here (including the oversized but breathtaking monstrance). He talked to me June 19 about the inspiration for his design.

"The general idea behind every motif is something I called 'chi ro and crosses,'" he said.

Francoeur tried to draw from the rich artistic tradition of the Catholic Church and recast it for modern sensibilities.

"The idea behind everything was to take tradition and use it in a modern way, to take the past and bring it toward the future."

The design challenged posed by holding Masses in a large oval space demanded an altar in the centre. It also helped metaphorically in that it focused all attention on Christ in the Eucharist, the very point of the congress.

"Everything points toward the middle, to the Eucharist," Francoeur explained.

He also wanted to keep the artistic elements simple so they could have an impact no matter how far members of the congregation were from the altar.

"The idea was that even if you are sitting high up, you see something beautiful."

He also urged the participants in the liturgy to adopt cream-coloured vestments instead of white to keep the light reflecting from them soft and warm.

Every detail in the design work required great thought and careful consideration for Francoeur.

"Art is quite important to prayer. It touches a part of us that is not just rational. We have to be very careful in what you show and how you show it. Images speak volumes."


For more coverage by the Catholic Register on the 49th International Eucharistic Congress see:

You’ll know they are pilgrims by their backpacks

Your TV eye on the Eucharistic Congress

This just in from head office

Rain or applause?

There's plenty of elbow room

Why is it always a United Church?

Where are young priests? Right here

Those clerics are everywhere

The Eucharist is also service

More on the numbers front

Spending a little quiet time with Jesus

New priests bring new life to church

We're all softies at heart



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