Catholic Church of Montreal > Publications > Info Archives > SEPTEMBER 2015 - The inauguration of the Saint-Sulpice Library, 100 years later

SEPTEMBER 2015 - The inauguration of the Saint-Sulpice Library, 100 years later


Source: Archives de la Ville de Montréal, VM94-Z176-1
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100 years ago, on September 12, 1915, the Saint-Sulpice Library was inaugurated on Saint-Denis Street. This project was primarily the initiative of the priests of Saint-Sulpice, who funded its construction. As Montreal's most important French library, the new Beaux-Arts style building was located in the neighborhood of the French-speaking elite of the city. At its opening in 1915, the new library's collection included books from the Sulpicians' libraries and from the Faculty of arts of Montreal's Université Laval. The library then consisted of 80 000 books.

The building's inauguration took place on a Sunday afternoon. Access to this well-attended event was restricted to those who had received a formal invitation. An original invitation card has been preserved by the Diocesan Archives. You can see it at the bottom of this page. Montreal's Archbishop Bruchési, attended the inauguration alongside Canon Lecoq, superior of Montreal's Sulpicians, the lieutenant governor of Quebec Sir Pierre-Évariste Leblanc and Quebec's premier Sir Lomer Gouin. The Archbishop spoke during the opening ceremony which was followed by a tour of the new library.

On the eve of the inauguration, the Archbishop had blessed the new building. In his speech, summarized in the September 14 edition of the newspaper La Patrie, Archbishop Bruchési expressed having blessed the library "without fear" because he had the assurance that the reading regulations of the Holy See would never be violated. This insinuation reflects a lengthy debate that divided the Montreal elite of the time. Several documents preserved in our archives reveal the opposition of Archbishop Bruchési to the establishment of a public library where one would find books incompatible with Church teaching. This is why the Archbishop gave his full support to the library project of the Sulpicians. The Saint-Sulpice Library made accessible to the public a large number of books and contributed as a University Library to the education of Montreal's youth while supporting Catholic thoughts. In spite of the opening in 1917 by the municipal council of a public library, the Montreal Catholic elite continued to favor the Saint-Sulpice Library as a place of discussions and encounters. Surprisingly, these two competing institutions were designed by the same architect: Eugène Payette.

Faced with significant financial difficulties in the 1930's, the Sulpicians were forced to close the doors of their library which would be acquired in 1942 by the Government of Quebec. The library continued to welcome researchers until the inauguration of La Grande Bibliothèque in 2005. At the moment, the heritage building is still seeking a new vocation. The Saint-Sulpice collection is now available at La Grande Bibliothèque and in BAnQ's special collections.

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