Soufriere Church

Soufriere
Lady of the Assumption
It has been said hat the third church built at Soufriere, probably the first in stone was erected between 1788 and 1790. That church 90 ft, long by 36 ft. wide had gothic windows, though its walls were not more that 16 ft. high. Its semi-circular sanctuary with 3 ft. thick walls, remained untouched up to 1951, when the present church was built. Abbe Alaux (1837-1841) built a belfry on the facade, an organ loft, a sacristy and two side chapels.

Unfortunately the belfry was destroyed by the earthquake of 1839; but a temporary one was built later. Around 1860 Abbe Fontaine paved the aisles of the church with large imported stone slabs and added two bells to the belfry. Soufriere had then three bells. In 1875 Abbe Rouyer had the two side chapels demolished in order to build two side aisles. The former side walls were replaced by two rows of laminated wooden columns. This doubled the size of the church: it was then 72 ft. wide by 90 ft. At the head of each side-aisle was an altar dedicated on the Epistle side to the sacred heart of Jesus. The main altar was a wooden structure, imported from abroad, which had no real value but had artistic lines. The side altars were in marble. The church had three roofs: one for the central nave and the other two for the side-aisles. The ''valleys'' between the roofs were a continuous source of trouble, because they could not dispose of rain water satisfactorily. Just before 1885, extensive repairs had to be made and the church was completely ceiled. Artistic paintings decorated the ceilings. The last work on the church was the building in local cut stones of a permanent belfry in 1889 and 1890 under the direction of Mr. Jules Du Boulay. This belfry has been preserved, but not its spire which was destroyed by the fire of 1955.
Soufriere Church St.Lucia
For many years the Soufriere church had been found too small for the population. Father E. Veillet had begun to collect money for a new church ever since 1919. Mr. Lilburn Lawrence was asked to make a plan which was approved by the vestry and a Parochial Assembly in May and June 1932. It was decided that work would begin within one year, early in 1933. But father Dugast was asked to wait for Archbishop Dowling's decision. He was disappointed when the Archbishop said that the work should not begin.

Father P Chaigne was appointed Parish priest of Soufriere in April 1937. In January 1938 he proposed a simpler plan for the new church. This plan had been made by father C. J. Dunford. Preparations were made; the portion of Victoria St. behind the old church was purchased after long negotiations with government. Father Dugast, who was Acting Parish Priest in 1939 did much for the success of these negotiations; But when the 1939-1945 war broke out, the plans was once again shelved.

In 1947, Father J. Virgnaud, who had just replaced the late father Chaigne, set to work on the church plan. Brother Gabriel was asked to produce a new plan: he came to Soufriere for the purpose. Lumber was prepared in Mahaut (Micoud) heights; but much difficulty was experienced in hauling the heavy logs from the forest.

It was on Easter Tuesday 1951 (March 27) that the work began. The Blessed Sacrament was removed to the girl's primary school: the many parishioners came to remove benches, statues, altars etc. The new church began to grow slowly, but steadily: first its outside walls, then its columns and clerestory. Several bazars were held. On Nov. 11, 1951 his grace Archbishop Ryan blessed and laid solemnly the cornerstone in the presence of a very large crowd. By the end of 1952 the church was coverd and Christmas and New years Day services were held in it. By Palm Sunday 1953 the main work was completed and the new church began to be used regularly on Sundays. On November 9, 1953, Archbishop Ryan was pleased to proceed to the solemn blessing of the new church. The inside measurements are 60 ft. wide by 147 ft. Its clerestory walls are 32 ft. high. Its has been said that the disastrous fire of 1955 destroyed the spire of the belfry. By the end of 1956 a new storey all built of cut stones had been added to the belfry. A new bell (the biggest of the three) was ordered. It was hung with the other two which had been saved from the fire, after it had been blessed by newly-consecrated Bishop Gachet on May 19, 1957.

The building of the new church was from 1951 to 1953. That new church was consecrated by Bishop Gachet on August 14, 1966.