Sunday, February 18, 2007

Champlain Remains Hidden

It was Rene Levesque's decades-long quest to find the resting place in Quebec City of French explorer Samuel de Champlain. That quest ended last Sunday with Levesque's death at age 81.

[H]e began searching for Champlain's grave as a young Jesuit priest in the bone-lined basement of the old Basilica in 1950s, when the boom of his sledgehammer drew rebuke from senior priests because it disturbed confessions in the church above.
Levesque thought he was close to discovering the grave several times, but each time came up empty. On one occasion he convinced a French television network to record for posterity the opening of Champlain's tomb.
With cameras rolling, Levesque knocked a hole in the basement wall on rue Buade and reached into the black cavity - only to pull out a bag of frozen stir-fry vegetables from the cold room in the Chinese restaurant next door.

"That seems appropriate," said Quebec City's chief archeologist, William Moss, who often dealt with Levesque's frequent demands for excavation permits. "Champlain was looking for a route to China." [Link]

Tim Agazio

This is a great story...sounds like Geraldo Rivera's search for Al Capone's loot that was on TV quite a few years least this guy found something...Geraldo didn't even get a bag of vegetables.

Tim Agazio


I was one of those who tuned in to watch Geraldo strike out. They should have sealed the vault back up with him inside.

Tim Agazio

I'm sorry to say that I was also one of those who tuned in to watch "Geraldo strike out." I agree, we all would have been better off if he were still in the vault.

Tim Agazio

P. Dubeau

The character of Champlain represents an important actor in the identity construction of the Québécois company. Mathieu of Avignon noted that the historians of the 19th century told well the work of Champlain, some even with a little too much zeal. It is not astonishing that archaeological research to find its burial, causes as much passion and emotion. The identity stakes and the practice of archaeology around Champlain, are the subject of a study by Mrs Sylvie Sagnes.

By trying account of these identity stakes, let us announce that certain research surrounding the localization of the chapel Champlain caused patrimonial emotions as well in certain researchers as in the general public. Thus Pierre-Louis Morin and Silvio Dumas imagined a cartographic and archaeological universe respectively, being unaware of several known historical texts sometimes. These assumptions were confronted thereafter on the ground, by the production of an extremely debatable plan on the one hand and on the other hand by a hazardous archaeological excavation. In the same way, Rene Lévesque stimulated the patrimonial emotions of the general public and the media, although its step was not recognized by the archaeological and scientific mediums. Paradoxically, the promising and more rational searchs for Georges Gauthier-Larouche (1988) and Carl Lavoie (1999) are unknown general public. In short, the identity stakes and science are confronted in this file, and that unfortunately, with the detriment of the latter. The study directed by Mrs. Francoise Niellon, notes this dialectical and expresses it in these terms:

“… They were rather designs different from archaeology which appeared: the immortality of an event for the ones and the scientific absence of contents for the others.” And a little further “Any press coverage became national. The scientific contents of the project were less important in the spirit of the media than the spectacular aspect of the discovery.”

Moreover, research was distracted a long time and even delayed by two situations. Initially, the studies of Thomas O' Leary (1894) which brought the researcher Rene Lévesque, in 1988, to locate the chapel Champlain at the west of the street of the Treasury. This localization did not agree at all with the two historical sources impossible to circumvent, namely, the text of the Reserve of Ailleboust (1649) and the concession of Mathieu Huboust (1661).

The other element of distraction relates to the famous plan of Pierre-Louis Morin gone back to 1640. This plan which would be rather evolutionary (1650-1660), was completely discredited in 1992, at the time of the excavations concerning the construction of the vault dedicated to Mgr of Laval under the southern transept the Notre_Dame Basilica of Quebec. The assumption of Rene Robitaille, concerning the fifth window, is isolated today. This plan of Morin, constituted primarily an assumption moreover, aiming at locating the chapel Champlain.

The three only historical sources retained by Lavoie (1999), thus lead us to locate the chapelle_Champlain in western edge of the fort of the Huron ones. This localization joined finally those of Myrand (1898) and Baby-Casgrain (1909), but this time with much more precision grace also, with the statements of land surveying of Paul Grimard and in the precise plan of Jean Bourdon of 1660

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