CONEFROY, PIERRE, Roman Catholic priest, vicar general, and architect; b. 28 Dec. 1752 at Quebec, son of Robert Conefroy, a merchant, and Marie-Josette Métivier; d. 20 Dec. 1816 in Boucherville, Lower Canada.
Pierre Conefroy grew up in comfortable circumstances, living on Rue Buade, in Quebec’s market square. After studies at the Séminaire de Québec he was ordained priest by Bishop Briand* on 21 Dec. 1776. In May 1774 his parents had provided him with a life annuity of 150 livres, payable in two annual instalments as soon as he became a subdeacon.
Following his ordination Conefroy spent four years in the parish of Saints-Anges at Lachine. In 1781 he became parish priest of Saint-Joachim, Pointe-Claire. There he established a convent of sisters of the Congregation of Notre-Dame in 1784, supervising construction of their house, which was completed in 1787; he had had the presbytery enlarged according to his own plans the year before. From 19 to 21 May 1787 Jean-François Hubert*, coadjutor to Bishop Louis-Philippe Mariauchau* d’Esgly, held a pastoral visitation, and his report gives some picture of the administration of the parish under Conefroy: it noted how accounts were approved, the cost of the various religious services was set, and income was divided between the parish council and the priest. Following his description of parish affairs, Hubert concluded the report by noting some aspects of Conefroy’s private life: his mother, his two sisters, and a young female servant lived with him, and he had in his library Abbé Guillaume Raynal’s Histoire philosophique et politique . . . , the Morale des jésuites . . . , and works by Diderot. On the whole Conefroy enjoyed his bishop’s confidence; he had authority to confess and give absolution for reserved sins throughout the Government of Montreal.
In September 1790 Conefroy left Pointe-Claire for the more important responsibility of Sainte-Famille, at Boucherville, where he succeeded Charles-Marie-Madeleine d’Youville*. As well as being a more remunerative posting, this parish charge carried with it the hope of promotion, since Boucherville was the usual place of residence of the vicar general. In 1801 Conefroy built its third church from plans he drew himself, and he undertook to repair the presbytery. He held to a traditional approach while keeping in mind the needs of his own day; for this church he turned to the major concepts employed in religious architecture during the preceding era and in his design used a Latin cross, ending in a semicircular apse. He was entering on a period of intense activity, since people from all over the province began to consult him about building or enlarging churches. It was then customary for a priest to direct the investigations that legally preceded the building of any church; Conefroy belonged to the group of priests who were interested in architecture and were often consulted. He prepared estimates and plans that, without being original, methodically set out various data on church construction relating to building materials, customs of the builders’ craft, and adaptation to the climate. From this consolidation of an architectural tradition came the standardization of parish architecture, and hence the title of architect-priest which has been given to Conefroy. Virtually until the 1830s, Conefroy’s design influenced the construction of churches, particularly those of Saint-Roch-de-l’Achigan, Saint-Antoine in Longueuil, and Saint-Antoine-de-Padoue at Rivière du Loup (Louiseville).
Conefroy accompanied Bishop Denaut on his visitation of the Maritimes from 3 May to 11 November 1803. In 1805 the bishop again chose him as a companion for a trip to Baie des Chaleurs planned for the summer of 1806. In 1808 Conefroy was appointed vicar general by Bishop Plessis*, and he retained this office for the rest of his life. His correspondence with his bishop gives proof of broad culture as well as of his attention to his work and his sustained interest in the building of various churches, particularly the one at Longueuil.
In December 1815 he had such a bad attack of gout that he thought himself near death. Recovering with difficulty, he remained weak but continued to carry out his ministry until his death on 20 Dec. 1816. His zeal for his work had earned him the esteem of his bishop and his parishioners.
AAQ, 20 A, II: 101; 1 CB, II: 28–46; 303 CD, I: 2; 61 CD, Notre-Dame de Québec, I: 18; 69 CD, I: 104–6; IA: 15–16; 60 CN, VI: 70. MAC-CD, Fonds Morisset, 2, C747.3/P622. Caron, “Inv. de la corr. de Mgr Denaut,” ANQ Rapport, 1931–32; “Inv. de la corr. de Mgr Hubert et de Mgr Bailly de Messein,” 1930–31; “Inv. de la corr. de Mgr Plessis,” 1927–28; 1932–33. Desrosiers, “Corr. de cinq vicaires généraux,” ANQ Rapport, 1947–48. Le diocèse de Montréal à la fin du dix-neuvième siècle . . . (Montréal, 1900). Tanguay, Répertoire (1893). Désiré Girouard, Les anciennes côtes du lac Saint-Louis, avec un tableau complet des anciens et nouveaux propriétaires (Montréal, 1892). Gosselin, L’Église du Canada après la Conquête, 1–2. [Louis Lalande], Une vieille seigneurie, Boucherville; chroniques, portraits et souvenirs (Montréal, 1890). Morisset, Coup d’œil sur les arts. Luc Noppen, Notre-Dame de Québec, son architecture et son rayonnement (1647–1922) (Québec, 1974). Gérard Morisset, “L’influence de l’abbé Conefroy sur notre architecture religieuse,” Architecture, Bâtiment, Construction (Montréal), 8 (février 1953): 36–39.