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No. 283: Notre Dame Convent in Morinville

Morinville is named after its founder, Abbe Jean Baptiste Morin.

According to historian Dorothy Field, from the very beginning, Morinville was a religious centre for French-speaking Catholics who settled in the region.

The first church was built in Morinville in 1891. It was a small log building. It was replaced quite quickly, in 1894, when the population outgrew the original building, with a larger log structure.

That in turn was replaced in 1907 with quite a large and ornate wood-frame building. And that building is actually still there, although you might not guess it, because in 1929 it was covered over with brick.

The church, as it exists today, is very much in the French- Canadian style.

There are other examples, in Edmonton and in St. Albert. It's a basic, rectangular floor plan, but it has a bell tower in the front centre of the church and two small towers on either side, which are really quite distinctive.

Inside the church there is quite a lot of paintings on the ceilings and the walls. And a rather ornate alter, as well.

A particular feature of the church that the congregation is very proud of as well, is the Casavant organ, which was installed in 1926. It was built by the famous Casavant Frères company in St. Hyacinth, Quebec.

As well, an order of nuns, Les Filles de Jesus, established in Morinville in 1904. And a few years later, they built a convent and school.

In 1909, the first part of the convent, a brick building with a central tower and metal mansard roof and cupola, was built. It was expanded, as the student population grew, in 1920, and again in 1930.

Les Filles de Jesus was organized and controlled from Trois Rivières, in Quebec, until 1919, when this became the provincial house and was the centre of operations for Alberta and Montana, including such sites as the St. Vincent hospital in Pincher Creek, formerly the LaBelle Mansion, and now a designated site.

In the early 1970s, the order of nuns sold their convent to the town of Morinville, which continued to run the school until 1977.

On the Heritage Trail,

I'm Cheryl Croucher.

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