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Legacy in wood - The Fretwork Decor of St.Vincent Church: The Sacred Works of Art of Father Charles Chalifoux, CSSP  

The History

 

St. Vincent Church, Corpus ChristiIn February of 1934, with the approval of the parish council and the help of parishioners, work began on the construction of a new church. 3 Each lumber contract on Crown lands cost fifteen dollars, and the labour would be donated by the parishioners. A contribution of 15 dollars per family was requested; an enormous sum at the time. There was only one employee, Gaudias Tardif, who accepted to be foreman of the project for a very minimal sum. Fr. Chalifoux had estimated the cost of the church at $1,500, and it never had more than $400 in debts4. The first 20,000 feet of boards were out before spring thaw from mills near the Beaver River and the structure was up before the snows of the next fall. Eventually 104,000 linear feet were used. Work bees were held and money was raised through parish feasts such as St. John the Baptist Day, raffles and community suppers. By August of 1936, the exterior of the church was almost completed, in time for a regional Eucharistic Congress which Fr. Chalifoux had organized.

Baptismal FontTwo square towers flanked the front of the church, joined by a portico above the porch, a design used in the 1918 church. The new church was 102 feet long and 34 feet wide (31m/10.3). In the shape of a Latin cross, it had a transept of 56 feet (17m) at the nave. Each side of the transept had an auxiliary altar and a gallery. Above the main entrance was another loft for the choir and the organ. Surrounding the main altar and the ambulatory, was a chancel screen, behind which was a hallway leading to the confessionals and the sacristies. Four hundred persons could now be seated.

Baptismal FontIn the patron’s honour, Fr. Chalifoux gave the church a Spanish flair, by the exterior of a two-tone gray stucco, with a tile trim to the roof. Inside the Moorish touch was notable by the wooden, arabesque chancel screen. Because Fr. Chalifoux had lived in France, the influence of the European churches he had visited was visible throughout the décor. For example, the wooden ceiling vault had imitation stonework arches of stucco.

 

 


Reprinted with permission from the St. Paul Historical Museum and with members of the parish of St. Vincent.