The name does not sound very picturesque; however, if you take a detour off the Number One highway across the prairies in Saskatchewan, you will be treated to a lovely cathedral. La Cathedrale, Notre Dame de l’Assomption in Gravelbourg is full of beautiful paintings that are well worth the trip. I have lived in Saskatchewan for over thirty years and have always meant to travel to Gravelbourg, which touts itself as “A Touch of Europe on the Prairies,” to see the cathedral. Last fall I finally made it there. Two of my uncles were visiting from England so we made a day of it.
It was after the tourist season so I had to call ahead and book a tour of the cathedral through the museum. Our tour was in the early afternoon which gave us time to have lunch at the Café Paris which is conveniently next door to the museum. The main street with the museum and the café run straight up to the cathedral so it is difficult to miss them. The cathedral itself is a large building in this small town but its exterior is not the attraction. It is the inside of the yellow s tone structure that is the main draw. Our guide gave us a private tour of the cathedral and told us the story of Charles Maillard, the priest-painter responsible for the breathtaking interior of the cathedral. According to the cathedral guidebook, Maillard hailed from Montreuil-sur-mer near Arras, France. He arrived in Gravelbourg in 1917 and was largely responsible for the cathedral being built. He then proceeded to adorn its interior with paintings depicting stories from the Old and New Testament to help him relay teachings in his sermons. The beauty of the paintings speaks for themselves so I have attached a number of photographs. Gravelbourg is rich with French heritage and has a variety of festivals throughout the year. If you find yourselves on the Canadian Prairies, it is well worth a visit.