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François Xavier de Laval

Laval, François Xavier de (fräNswäˈ zävyāˈ də lävälˈ) [key], 1623–1708, French prelate in Canada, first bishop of Quebec. Of noble family (his family name in full was Laval-Montmorency), he gave up his large patrimony to enter the church. The clergy of New France was under the archbishop of Rouen, and it was the desire of the Jesuits to be directly under the pope that caused Laval to be sent (1659) as vicar apostolic in New France. As such and later (1674–88) as first bishop of Quebec, he was the strongest figure of the Canadian church and one of the most powerful in the colony. His vigor—which continued undiminished into his old age—and his stubborn fight for what he considered the welfare of his people made the Quebec church the vital force of colonial life. He transformed education and founded a seminary that later formed the nucleus of Laval Univ. He fought bitterly with the royal governors, partly because they attempted to subordinate missionary effort to the state but more because he strongly opposed their policy of allowing the sale of alcohol to the Native Americans. Laval returned (1679) to France to protest against the actions of Frontenac and the so-called brandy parliament. Although he did not get government support, Frontenac was, nevertheless, recalled in 1682. Because of poor health Laval resigned as bishop and was succeeded by his former vicar general, Saint-Vallier. Laval testily disapproved of some of the new bishop's ways, but the church continued strong and Laval's influence continued; when Saint-Vallier was in Europe for long periods (1694–97, 1700–1708) Laval administered the see. Thus to the end of his life Laval had a hand in the building of New France. He appears as a principal character in Willa Cather's novel Shadows on the Rock.

See biography by H. A. Scott (1926).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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