This depiction of one of the Stations of the Cross shows the scene where Jesus, sentenced to death, falls for the first time under the weight of the cross that he must bear throughout the journey that will lead him to Calvary. According to the Christian liturgical rite, the Stations of the Cross recount the stages of the Passion of Jesus Christ by illustrating the scenes or events that occurred along the route.

We owe it to Saint Francis of Assisi (ca. 1182-1226) and the Franciscans to have established the importance for Christians, especially during the period of Lent, of being able to reflect on the sacrifices and suffering endured by Jesus of Nazareth before his death.

Until the 18th century, the Stations of the Cross, both those placed outside and those adorning the inside of places of worship, were not yet systematically regulated. The Stations of the Cross were only gradually standardized by limiting them to 14 stations. If the paintings or sculptures are placed on the walls, generally in the nave of a church, seven are usually placed on one side wall, and the other seven are placed on the opposite wall.

This painted sculpture entitled Jesus Falls Under the Weight of His Cross is the third station of fourteen. It would have been produced with a pocket knife and a file in 1922. It is unknown for which church or place of worship this sculpture was made, and it may also never have been accompanied by 13 others.

With respect to the artist, Médard Bourgault (1897-1967), he was a native of Saint-Jean-Port-Joli, a municipality located in the Chaudière-Appalaches administrative region on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River in Quebec. Bourgault left school at the age of 12. He worked as a sailor for about ten years, then as a carpenter/joiner before devoting himself to sculpture, first as an amateur. Starting in 1922-1923, Bourgault devoted himself more actively to this pursuit. In the early 1930s, Québécois anthropologist, ethnologist, and folklorist Marius Barbeau met Bourgault for the first time. Barbeau appreciated his talent and went on to encourage him.

Bourgault’s favourite themes were associated with scenes inspired by the land, then with his religious beliefs. Later, they consisted of more modern subjects.

As with this sculpture, in the beginning, Bourgault liked to cover his works with painted colours. His statues were made of wood, always original. He refused to make copies. In 1932, his brothers, Jean-Julien and André, joined him.

Eight years later, in November 1940, the three Bourgault brothers’ workshop became the first government-subsidized school devoted to sculpture in the province.

Thousands of works were produced by the talent, inspiration, skilled hands, and well-honed tools of Médard Bourgault; they can be found all over the world.

Médard Bourgault died on September 21, 1967.

Donation from Msgr. Albert Tessier
Musée Pierre-Boucher Collection
1977 97 S