The Lighthouse Road

A processional arch made from whalebone
A processional arch made from whalebone.

Beginning in 1800, the lighthouse road was the site of an important religious ceremony each year: the Feast of Corpus Christi (in French, Fête-Dieu or Fête du Saint-Sacrement). Set on the 60th day after Easter, this celebration involved outdoor processions with pauses along the way for prayers and hymns. The procession included the clergy and altar boys in fine vestments and the local militia, who discharged their guns in a special salute at key times during the service. The parishioners could watch from the roadside or follow along with the celebrants.

The procession route began at the church, travelled down the Chemin du Phare to the lighthouse and then proceeded back to the church. After 1890, the Eudist faculty of Collège Sainte-Anne and the school’s brass band took part as well.

A Fête-Dieu procession
A Fête-Dieu procession along the Chemin du Phare (Photograph: Centre acadien)
One of the small chapels known as reposoirs
Eventually, the parishioners built a set of small chapels (known as reposoirs) spaced at intervals along the Chemin du Phare. These were beautifully proportioned little buildings with arched doorways and slender steeples over open-sided bell towers. Each of these chapels was a stopping place on the Fête-Dieu procession.
1949 aerial photograph of the university
This 1949 aerial photograph of the university shows the lighthouse road with three Fête-Dieu chapels and the lighthouse at its end point. (Photograph source: 1890-1990 Sainte-Anne, Cent ans d’images du college à l’université, 1989)

In the late 1960s and through the 1970s, the university campus expanded to include property to the south of the Chemin du Phare, and the library, theatre and swimming pool were built there. To make room for these new buildings, the road to the lighthouse was rerouted to pass to the right of the skating rink.

The former farms to the south of the Chemin du Phare grew into woodlands again, crisscrossed by walking paths. Today, in the groves to the south of the lighthouse road one can see the remains of an Acadian farm and orchard. In 2016, the children’s summer camp, Colonie Jeunesse Acadienne, relocated to this part of Le Petit Bois.

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