François de Laval arrives in Canada

On today’s date in 1659, François de Laval arrived in Canada as vicar apostolic of New France.

Bishop Laval was featured on a 1973 8-cent Canada Post stamp (CS Scott # 611) commemorating the 350th anniversary of his birth. The stamp was designed by Gerry Lorange and Michael Fog and printed by Ashton-Potter Limited. The image of Laval is printed in silver on a marine-blue background and is difficult to make out. The fine gold text is similarly lost in the background.

In 1663, when King Louis XIV established the Sovereign Council, the position of bishop became the second most influential of the entire French colony, behind only the governor. The bishop used his influence to stymie the trade of alcohol between Europeans and the aboriginals – something he believed denigrated both cultures.

Laval was appointed as vicar apostolic on June 3, 1658. Later that year, in the church of the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés in Paris, he was consecrated the vicar apostolic of Quebec by the papal nuncio, Cardinal Celio Piccolomini.

Laval took an oath of loyalty to the king and sailed for New France on April 13, 1659. He would arrive in present-day Quebec on June 16, immediately beginning his work, baptizing a young Huron and giving a dying man his last sacraments.

As Quebec’s first bishop, de Laval was influential in establishing many educational institutions (about one parish a year for 30 years) and was also one of the architects of New France. He died in Quebec City in 1708.

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