First Jesuit Missions

St. Ignace II

In the mid-1600s, the Jesuit mission to the Hurons was headquartered in the mission village named Sainte Marie. From there, the missionaries and their helpers were sent to work in the surrounding native villages. One of these was named after St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus. St. Ignace was a Wendat Catholic community. In the autumn of 1648, the village was relocated closer to Ste. Marie (approximately twelve kilometers away) so as to be better protected from any attack by the Iroquois, the traditional enemy of the Wendat.

St. Ignace II was only a few months old when, in the very early morning of March 16, 1649, it was overwhelmed by more than a thousand Iroquois warriors. After quickly making the village a stronghold, these invaders attacked the neighbouring village of St. Louis. There, after an intense battle, they captured Sts. Jean de Brebeuf and Gabriel Lalemant as well as the surviving Wendat warriors who remained to defend their village. The prisoners were brought to St. Ignace II where Sts. Brebeuf and Lalemant were fastened to beams supporting the roof of the chapel. They were tortured to death by mock baptism using boiling water, fire, necklaces of red hot hatchets, and mutilation. Throughout the ordeal the two priests showed great courage and faith in God. After the enemy withdrew, their bodies were recovered and brought to Ste. Marie for burial.

By May of 1649, it was apparent that the Iroquois would attack again. The Jesuits decided to abandon Ste. Marie. They removed the bodies of Sts. Brebeuf and Lalemant and preserved their bones as relics worthy of veneration. They then re­interred their flesh remains in the back of the church at Ste. Marie before the village was set on fire.

Today, St. Ignace II serves as a holy place of reflection and spiritual renewal.

The peace felt there provides all visitors with the opportunity to contemplate the great sacrifices made by the eight Martyred Saints, and to ask for their intercession.