On today’s date in 1659, François de Laval arrived in present-day Canada as vicar apostolic of what was then the French colony of New France.
Laval was appointed vicar apostolic – essentially a bishop – a year earlier, when he was consecrated in the church of the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés in Paris by the papal nuncio Cardinal Celio Piccolomini.
Laval took an oath of loyalty to King Louis XIV and sailed for New France on April 13, 1659. He arrived on June 16 and immediately began his work by baptizing a young Huron and giving a dying man his last sacraments.
In 1663, when Louis XIV established the Sovereign Council, the position of bishop became the second most influential role in the French colony, behind only the governor.
As Quebec’s first bishop, 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 also used his influence to stymie the trade of alcohol between Europeans and Indigenous populations—something he believed denigrated both cultures.
1973 LAVAL STAMP
Bishop Laval was featured on an eight-cent stamp (Scott #611) issued by Canada’s Post Office Department (now Canada Post) in 1973 to commemorate the 350th anniversary of his birth.
The stamp was designed by Gerry Lorange and Michael Fog and printed by Ashton-Potter. The image of Laval is printed in silver on a marine-blue background and is difficult to see. The fine gold text – with Laval’s name and birth and death dates – is similarly lost in the background.
Laval eventually died in Québec city in 1708.