Arichat’s historic Main Street

Pictured is the former Notre Dame de l’Assomption Convent in Arichat.

The journey to discover Arichat as it was in 1935 continues.

Just to the west of the Matthew/Ralph Britten home was vacant; today it contains the residence of Jerry and Linda (Britten).

Continuing west but nearer the highway was the Roman Catholic glebe house. This large, wood frame structure was built in the early 1860s by Les Freres des Ecoles Chretiens on a site near the old Arichat Academy. In 1907, Father Lubin J. Gallant, the multilingual pastor of Arichat, purchased this building and had it moved and placed adjacent to the Notre Dame de l’Assomption Convent where it stood in 1935. It was late demolished.

Virtually attached to the glebe was the convent just alluded to. It was erected in 1856 for the use of the sisters of Le Congregation de Notre Dame who had been invited to Arichat by Bishop MacKinnon to provide much needed pedagogical service. Then in 1864 the original structure was supplemented by the addition of two wings.

“The Convent,” as it was known throughout Richmond County and Eastern Nova Scotia, earned a reputation for excellence and high standards. The three storeys contained an auditorium, chapel, living areas for sisters and students, kitchen, dining hall, classrooms, sleeping quarters for the sisters, and dormitories for the young ladies from away who called the convent home during the school year. These students were usually referred to as “Boarders.” The Convent provided education for both males and females and was the source for high school instruction for the entire region for many generations.

In 1963, after the opening of Isle Madame District High School, the Convent, empty but for the family of Bart LeBlanc (who had been burned out of their own home), was lost to fire.

The ensuing edifice was the Notre Dame de l’Assomption Roman Catholic Church. This place of worship was erected in 1837 during the tenure of Father Jean Baptiste Miranda. It was not the first church built at Arichat, but it is the building still in existence. The original version was somewhat different in that it had two rows of windows as opposed to the full-length style installed later; also there was but one steeple, located in the center of the roof. Inside there was no painting of the assumption, none on the ceiling and no pipe organ; the pews were of the type found in the gallery, and there were no stained-glass windows.

In 1844 Arichat was named the seat of the diocese and thus the church became a cathedral. Bishop Colin MacKinnon, who came to Arichat in 1851, undertook major upgrades to his cathedral; it was he who procured much of the statuary, the enormous painting behind the altar as well as the pipe organ. It was also Bishop MacKinnon who changed the name of the parish from Notre Dame to Notre Dame de l’Assomption.

Then in 1894 Father Lubin J. Gallant initiated another refurbishment by replacing the one tower with two and the small windows with the long two-storey type. The church has since been declared a heritage site and continues to dominate the landscape like a watchful guardian.