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Saint-Léon-de Westmount

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Saint-Léon-de-Westmount Church, ©Conseil du patrimoine religieux du Québec, 2003 Saint-Léon-de-Westmount Church, ©Conseil du patrimoine religieux du Québec, 2003

“The Most Beautiful Church in North America”

That’s what Father Oscar Gauthier (1873–1964) wanted when he started, in 1928, the Saint-Léon-de-Westmount decoration project.[1] Father Gauthier, priest at the church from 1920 to 1951, had lived in Rome for a few years and was impressed by the art he found there. He too wanted a beautiful Italian church, a church decorated in the Renaissance style. Which is why he hired Nincheri.

 

Saint-Léon-de-Westmount

4311, boulevard De Maisonneuve Ouest

Designated National Historic Site in 1997

Construction Dates: 1901-1903

Architect: Georges-Alphonse Monette

Decorative Works: 1928-1959

 

The original church was designed by G. A. Monette (1870–1941) and built from 1901 to 1903. In the shape of a Greek cross, the church was about a third of the size of the current nave. In 1920–1921, it was enlarged to its current size and shape. The new architectural plans were also drawn by G. A. Monette, and the parish took advantage of the enlargement project to make the church fireproof by covering the wood with stone.

In 1928, Nincheri received the contract to decorate the church. He was in charge of every decorative aspect of the building, from making windows and frescoes, to designing doors, the high altar, the sculptures. After Madonna della Difesa, for which he was also the architect, this was his largest and most complete decorative project.

The first stage of the project (1928–1931) consisted in covering the wooden floors with concrete and marble to reduce the risk of fires. Then, from 1931 to 1933, the walls and pillars were covered with marble and Savonnières stone from France. It was only in 1933 that Nincheri could start the actual decoration work, which would last until 1959.

Saint-Léon-de-Westmount Church, ©Conseil du patrimoine religieux du Québec, 2003

The volume of decoration in the church could easily overwhelm viewers, but the colours are so light and the various elements are so cohesive that peace washes over you as you step into the nave. Saint-Léon-de-Westmount is one of the few churches where Nincheri was able to create a harmonious whole by using the full range of his skills: architecture, fresco painting, stained-glass windows and furniture design.

Below is a list of the decorative works made or designed by Nincheri. These will be analyzed in greater details in separate articles.

 

The Murals[2]

 Frescoes

 
  1. The apse
  2. The dome
  3. The West transept
  4. The East transpet
  5. The Absidiole of Saint John the Baptist
  6. The Absidiole of Saint Ann
  7. The Chapel of the Immaculate Conception
  1. The Chapel of Saint Joseph
  2. The nave
  3. The organ loft
  4. The baptistery ceiling
  5. The east and west ambulatories
  6. The east and west entrances to the organ loft
  7. The underside of the arches between the nave columns

Other

 
  1. The sacristy
  2. The wedding chapel
  1. The narthex
  2. The ceiling under the organ loft

The Stained-Glass Windows

Nave — Gospel (or West) Side

Nave — Epistle (or East) Side

These windows depict scenes from Jesus’s public life.

  1. Jesus Calming the Tempest (1930)
  2. Sermon of the Beatitudes
  3. Caesar’s Tribute
  4. Jesus’s Triumphant Entry in Jerusalem

These windows depict scenes from Jesus’s childhood.

  1. The Adoration of the Magi
  2. The Presentation at the Temple
  3. Jesus Among the Doctors (1938)
  4. The Shop of Nazareth

Absidiole of Saint John the Baptist

Absidiole of Saint Ann

  1. The Preaching of Saint John the Baptist
  2. The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist
  1. Mary’s Education by Saint Ann
  2. The Angel Appearing to Saint Ann

Transept — Gospel (or West) Side

Transept — Epistle (or East) Side

  1. The Crucifixion
  2. Christ the King
  3. The Resurrection
  1. The Original Sin
  2. The Predestination
  3. The Expulsion

Chapel of the Immaculate Conception

Chapel of Saint Joseph

  1. Our Lady of the Victories
  2. Crowning of the Blessed Virgin
  1. The Holy Family
  2. The Death of St. Joseph

Vestibule

Sacristy

  1. Saint George
  2. Saint Gabriel
  1. Candle Bearer
  2. Bible Bearer

Baptistery

Wedding Chapel

  1. Preparatory Instruction
  2. The Baptism
  3. The Confirmation
  1. Holy Water Bearer
  2. Acolyte

The Sculptures

 Marble

 Wood

  1. The high altar
  2. The pulpit
  3. The communal rail
    1. The stalls
    2. The organ-loft balustrade
    3. The entrance doors

Bronze

 
  1. Stations of the Cross
  2. The confessional doors
 

 

[1] Sylvana Micillo Villata, Guido Nincheri, maître verrier : les vitraux des églises montréalaises. Montréal: Société de Diffusion du Patrimoine Artistique et Culturel des Italo-Canadiens, 1995, p. 47.

[2] This list comes from Ian S. Hoskinson’s Premilinary Study for the Conservation of the Frescoes of Guido Nincheri in the Church of Saint-Léon-de-Westmount, National Historic Site of Canada, August 2013, p.8.

[3] Ibidem.

____________________

Further Reading

Pierre A. Maltais, Saint-Léon de Westmount (1901-2001). Translated by Patricia S. Curran. Montreal: Paroisse Saint-Léon de Westmount, 1999.

Sylvana Micillo Villata, Guido Nincheri, maître verrier : les vitraux des églises montréalaises. Montréal: Société de Diffusion du Patrimoine Artistique et Culturel des Italo-Canadiens, 1995.

Ian S. Hoskinson’s Premilinary Study for the Conservation of the Frescoes of Guido Nincheri in the Church of Saint-Léon-de-Westmount, National Historic Site of Canada, August 2013.

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