MICHAUD, JOSEPH, teacher, Cleric of St Viator, priest, and architect; b. 1 April 1822 in Kamouraska, Lower Canada, son of Joseph Michaud, a farmer, and Charlotte Michaud; d. 13 Dec. 1902 in Joliette, Que.
The third in a family of seven, Joseph Michaud very likely attended the parish school set up by curé Jacques Varin, where Louis-Charles-Alexandre Dolbigny, a man of letters and veteran of Napoleon’s army, was the teacher. It was not until he was 16, however, that he entered the Collège de Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière. There Abbé Thomas-Benjamin Pelletier, the prefect of studies, gave him his first lessons in science, drawing, and architecture.
In 1846, when he had finished his classical studies, Michaud began teaching the preparatory class at his alma mater. In 1848 he joined the Clerics of St Victor in Industrie (Joliette), where he taught physics, chemistry, geography, astronomy, architecture, and cabinet-making until 1851. After a year at the Collège de Chambly as a science teacher, he went back to Industrie for the 1852–53 school terms. He returned to Chambly in 1853. During the course of that year, he drew up the plans for the college chapel, taking as his model the church of Saint-Pierre-Apôtre in Montreal, which had been designed by architect Victor Bourgeau*. He taught the next year at the Collège Joliette and was then made director of the Collège Bourget, in Rigaud, which had been set up by curé Joseph Desautels* in 1850. His appointment coincided with a decision to move the college into larger premises, and Michaud drew up the plans and helped the workers with construction. Father Gustave Lamarche, the college’s historian, left this description of him: “extremely active, short, slender in appearance, [with] an iron will, a true eccentric . . . architect, draftsman, wood sculptor, metal worker, always labouring with a shovel, a trowel, a saw, or a plane.”
In 1858 Michaud was one of two recruits whom the Clerics of St Viator sent to Vancouver Island to help Bishop Modeste Demers* in his diocese. When he arrived in Victoria on 7 June, his first task was to design and construct the cathedral. A modest church, 75 feet long, 35 feet wide, and 20 feet high, it would be blessed by the bishop in July 1861. In the meantime, the major orders had been conferred on Michaud, who was ordained to the priesthood on 25 March 1860.
After four years in the diocese, Michaud expressed his desire to return to Lower Canada. His superiors assigned him once more to science instruction at the Collège Joliette; he set up laboratories and made instruments while teaching the “Précis d’architecture” written by Abbé Jérôme Demers*. Some of his students later became architects, including D’Angeville Dostaler, who was to work with him.
Michaud’s name is mainly associated with the construction of the cathedral of Saint-Jacques in Montreal. After Victor Bourgeau rejected Bishop Ignace Bourget*’s proposal to make it a small-scale replica of St Peter’s Basilica in Rome, Bourget sent Michaud to Rome in 1868, as chaplain to the Papal Zouaves, and gave him the task of drawing up plans for the building. On his return to Joliette in 1869, Michaud made a model which would serve as the pattern. With Bourgeau and Alcibiade Leprohon, he supervised the work, which began in 1875, and even took a hand in it himself. On Bourgeau’s death in 1888, he alone was left to see to its completion.
When the cathedral was finished in 1890, Michaud stayed on in Montreal, at the Institution Catholique des Sourds-Muets pour la Province de Québec, where he had been residing since 1880 [see Joseph-Marie Young*]. He put together a museum of natural science there and assembled a sizeable coin collection. Early in 1902 he withdrew to the noviciate of the Clerics of St Victor in Joliette, where he died on 13 December.
Joseph Michaud was a prolific architect. His services were much in demand and he drew up the plans for a great many religious buildings, some of which still stand. These include the churches in the parishes of St Francis Xavier in Winooski, Vt, and St Joseph in Burlington, in the parishes of Saint-Norbert, Sainte-Mélanie, Saint-Liguori, and Saint-Alphonse-Rodriguez in the diocese of Joliette, and in the parishes of Saint-Paul-l’Ermite in the diocese of Montreal and Saint-Joseph-du-Lac in the diocese of Saint-Jérôme, as well as the convents of Saint-Paul-d’Industrie and Saint-Liguori, the former Institution des Sourdes-Muettes in Montreal, and the kindergarten of the Sisters of Charity of Providence in Coteau-Saint-Louis. Unfortunately, his most elegant works, such as the Michaud wings of the Collège Bourget and the Collège Joliette, and the Bonsecours market and chapel in Joliette, have disappeared.
The exteriors of a number of the stone buildings designed by Michaud show a Georgian influence and are truly austere. When he married stone to brick, however, and introduced the play of uneven surfaces, the result was happy. The warm, charming Baroque style in which most of his church interiors were done places him in the tradition of the great builders of the province of Quebec. An extremely shy and deeply religious priest, Michaud was the creator of daring projects. He remains a significant figure in the artistic tradition of the Lanaudière region and in the teaching of science at the Collège Joliette.
ANQ-BSLGIM, CE3-3, 1er avril 1822. Arch. des Clercs de Saint-Viateur (Joliette, Qué.), Dossier du collège Joliette. Arch. des Clercs de Saint-Viateur (Montréal), Dossier Institution des sourds-muets; Dossier Joseph Michaud. Le Bazar (Montréal), 7 août–20 nov. 1886. Daily British Colonist (Victoria), 23 Nov. 1860. La Gazette de Joliette, 15 mai 1876. La Minerve, 12, 26 janv. 1855. La Presse, 29 mai 1986. Semainier paroissial; basilique cathédrale Marie-Reine du monde (Montréal), 15 juin 1986. Gaspard Ducharme, “La maquet[t]e de la cathédrale de Montréal (œuvre du père Joseph Michaud, clerc de Saint-Viateur),” Technique (Montréal), 16 (1941): 85–91, 148. Gustave Lamarche, Le collège sur la colline; petit historique du collège Bourget de Rigaud (Rigaud, Qué., 1951). François Lanoue, “Joseph Michaud, c.s.v. (1822–1902), architecte,” CCHA Sessions d’études, 54 (1987): 10–38. Wilfrid Lebon, Histoire du collège de Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière (2v., Québec, 1948–49). [J.-L.-]O. Maurault, Marges d’histoire; l’art au Canada (3v., Montréal, 1929–30), 2. Alexandre Paradis, Kamouraska (1674–1948) (Québec, 1948). The Sisters of St. Ann in British Columbia, Yukon, and Alaska, 1858–1958 ([Victoria, 1958]).