VIGNAL (Vignar, Vignard, Vignart), GUILLAUME, priest, Sulpician, chaplain to the Ursulines of Quebec, bursar of the seminary of Saint-Sulpice at Montreal; b. c. 1604 (L. Le Jeune) or 1615 in the diocese of Périgueux (O. Maurault); d. 27 Oct. 1661.
Little is known of Vignal’s life before 1648. According to Le Jeune, he may have been ordained a priest about 1628. According to O. Maurault, he may have come to Canada as a secular priest to serve missions in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. In any case, on 13 Sept. 1648, we find him at Quebec with the title of chaplain to the Ursulines, as replacement for the prior, René Chartier, who had returned to France the preceding year. In return for an annual payment from the Ursulines of 100 francs, he concerned himself with various tasks on the community’s behalf, one of them being to clear land on their Saint-Joseph farm. In 1653 he received from Louis d’Ailleboust an acre of land which he donated to the Ursulines on 4 Oct. 1655, “being on the point of sailing for France,” a voyage from which he returned in 1656. On the occasion of a visit by d’Ailleboust, then acting governor, to the Beaupré shore, Vignal accompanied him and, on 13 March 1658, blessed “the site of the church of the Petit Cap” (the future church of Sainte-Anne de Beaupré), the governor laying the first stone. Following the advice of M. de Queylus [see Thubières], Abbé Vignal decided to enrol in the Compagnie des Prêtres de Saint-Sulpice, which necessitated his going back to France that same year.
He returned to Canada on 7 Sept. 1659 together with the Sulpician Jacques Le Maistre, to take up his abode at Ville-Marie (Montreal). After Le Maistre was killed in August 1661, Vignal replaced him as bursar of the seminary of Saint-Sulpice. Before two months had elapsed he suffered the same fate as his colleague, at the hands of the same enemies. Being anxious to complete the seminary that was under construction, he had gone with a group of workmen to the Île à la Pierre, on 25 Oct. 1661, to collect the necessary materials. They were surprised by a party of Iroquois, and in the ensuing struggle Vignal was seriously wounded, captured and carried off with three other prisoners: a certain Dufresne, the settler René Cuillerier*, and Claude de Brigeac. Judging Vignal to be too badly hurt to survive, the Iroquois would execute him two days later and burn his body near the Cap-de-la-Madeleine.
From the evidence of the period’s documents, one can surmise that Vignal had a brave, devoted, deeply humble character. He was too trusting, however, and seems at times to have lacked prudence and foresight. Carried away by his eagerness to complete the seminary, he had indeed neglected warnings of the presence of Iroquois on the island; heeding these warnings might have enabled him to avoid death. According to Jérôme Lalemant, “he bore in life a very good repute among all the French, through his exercise of humility, charity and penitence – virtues which were highly developed in him, and made him beloved by every one.” The Ursulines held him in high esteem and keenly regretted his departure.
ASQ, Polygraphie III, 38. Dollier de Casson, Histoire du Montréal, 138–40, 162–65, 241. JR (Thwaites), XLII, 156, et passim. JJ (Laverdière et Casgrain), 232f., et passim. Gabriel Debien, “Liste des engagés pour le Canada au XVIIe siècle (1634–1715),” RHAF, VI (1952–53), 387. Le Jeune, Dictionnaire. Olivier Maurault, Marges d’histoire (3v., Montréal, 1929–30), III, 189–96. P.-G. Roy, La ville de Québec, I, 236 (facsimile of Vignal’s signature). Les Ursulines de Québec, I, 67, 227, 231, 238–40.
Revisions based on:
Bibliothèque et Arch. Nationales du Québec, Centre d’arch. de Montréal, CE601-S51, 13 févr. 1662.