LASCARIS D’URFÉ, FRANÇOIS-SATURNIN, Sulpician, missionary, member of a noble family from the Forez region; b. 1641 at Baugé, son of Charles-Emmanuel, Marquis d’Urfé et de Baugé, marshal of His Majesty’s camps and armies, and of Marguerite d’Allègre; d. 30 June 1701 in his château of Baugé.
Through his great-grandmother, Renée de Savoie-Lascaris, he was related to the illustrious Greek house of Lascaris, which had once occupied the throne of Constantinople.
François-Saturnin Lascaris d’Urfé was admitted on 1 April 1660 to the seminary of Saint-Sulpice in Paris and was ordained a priest in 1665 or 1666. His superior soon sent him, at his request, to Canada, where he arrived in the autumn of 1668. The following year he was assigned to the new mission to the Iroquois at Kenté (Quinte). This was in reality a “flying column,” for the missionaries had to move about frequently to accompany the Indians on their hunting expeditions. D’Urfé accompanied his colleague and cousin Salignac* de La Mothe-Fénelon to the mission. Like the latter, he knew the consolations afforded by his ministry as well as its disappointments, for if the Indians received the Black Robes gladly, they nevertheless did not give up their ancestral customs. D’Urfé spent more than four years at Kenté, then in 1674, when his cousin had great difficulties with Governor Buade* de Frontenac, it was he who replaced Fénelon at the mission at Gentilly (Dorval).
For having tried to defend Fénelon, Abbé d’Urfé likewise had to suffer the governor’s unpleasantness. In the autumn of 1674 he sailed for France with Fénelon to plead his cause. He prepared a memoir for Colbert. This memoir, clever and at the same time forcible, made mention of the vexations to which he had been subjected: his mail had been opened, he had been deprived of the services of a valet, and Frontenac had expelled him from his office without listening to him. On 13 May 1675 Colbert, whose son had just married d’Urfé’s first cousin, wrote to Frontenac: “Monsieur d’Urfé has become a very close relation of mine, since he is a first cousin of my daughter-in-law, which constrains me to ask you to show him some sign of your particular consideration.” Although d’Urfé and Frontenac subsequently seem to have made their peace, the accusing manuscript remained in the files. Nevertheless, L. Bertrand, the historiographer of Saint-Sulpice assures us, d’Urfé’s memoir “contributed in no small measure to bringing about M. de Frontenac’s recall.”
The missionary firmly intended to return to Canada, but he was faced with a financial problem; it was decided by his superiors that he should pay the cost of his voyage. Now his family was neither rich nor generous. However, a favourable opportunity presented itself in 1685 when M. de Saint-Vallier [La Croix] was named bishop of Quebec; François d’Urfé was recommended to him to act as his guide and counsellor. D’Urfé did not remain long at Quebec but went back to Montreal to rejoin his confrères. It was thus that he became in 1686, if not the founder of the parish, at least the first resident priest for the parish of Saint-Louis du Haut de l’Île.
More and more the tendency was to go out to meet the Indians who came to Montreal to trade their furs: Lachine was founded in 1669, Gentilly around 1673. From the registers of landed property it appears that by 1678 there were fiefs all along the shoreline, from Senneville to Gentilly. The name of the fief of Bellevue has remained attached to Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, which was first called “du bout de l’île” (“at the end of the island”). If we are to believe tradition, the chapel of Saint-Louis de Haut de l’Île stood on a point which is still called Pointe-à-Caron and which forms part of the present-day Baie d’Urfé.
In the autumn of 1687, after the frequent incursions by the Iroquois against the colony had been resumed, the little parish of Saint-Louis was attacked. D’Urfé narrowly escaped the massacre and could do nothing but bury the dead, among whom was his sole churchwarden, Jean de Lalonde, dit l’Espérance. In doing so he acted courageously, although according to his superiors he was not “particularly brave by nature.”
He was called back to France on family matters in 1687 and was appointed in turn to various benefices. Then in 1697 he retired to his château of Baugé, where he died in 1701, barely 60 years old. The Gallia Christiana informs us that he was buried in the vaults of the Hôtel-Dieu, which is today the hospice, where an inscription recalls the dignity of his life and his unfailing charity.
Bibliothèque municipale de Montréal, Fonds Gagnon, Lettres manuscrites des supérieurs de Saint-Sulpice. “Correspondance de Frontenac (1672–1682),” APQ Rapport, 1926–27, 82f. Gallia Christiana in provincias ecclesiasticas . . . (13v., Paris, 1715–85), II, 592. Louis Moreri, Le grand dictionnaire historique, ou le mélange curieux de l’histoire sacrée et profane . . . (nouv. éd. [par L.-F.-J. de La Barre], 6v., Paris, 1725), V, 329. A.-L. Bertrand, Bibliothèque sulpicienne ou histoire littéraire de la compagnie de Saint-Sulpice (3v., Paris, 1900), I, 155. Eccles, Frontenac, 69. [Faillon], Histoire de la colonie française, III, 493ff. Armand Yon, “Une ‘victime’ de Frontenac: l’abbé François Lascaris d’Urfé (1641–1701),” SCHEC Rapport, 1944–45, 51–67.