Missionaries of Africa

"The Great Commission"
Fresco in the Chapel of Maison-Carrée

At the Ascension, the Lord said, ‘Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations… And know that I am with you…’ Go; make disciples of all the peoples of Africa. Be my apostles, nothing but my apostles. The Lord called and Cardinal Lavigerie responded by offering him the Mother House (the Society). There are confreres already on their way to the interior of Africa. Another holds the ‘Statutes of the Order’ (the Constitutions). Far in the background is the silhouette of Algiers and the Basilica of Our Lady of Africa.

Fresco in the sanctuary of the chapel at Maison Carrée
Above, centre, God the Father with the orb of the world and the royal sceptre; at his left, the Virgin Mary; on the right, 4 Bishops: Augustine, Fulgentius, Cyprian and Optatus.
Above left, Father Pascal, who died during the 1st caravan journey to Equatorial Africa and further above, Fathers Paulmier, Bouchand and Ménoret, murdered in the Sahara.
This fresco was commissioned by Cardinal Lavigerie from the artist Jean-Raymond Hippolyte Lazerges, 1817-1887). He began the paintings on the 20 May 1879 and the Cardinal blessed them on the 19 March 1880.

Where did this painting originate?

In PE n° 125, February 1924, we read, ‘On the 14th January, a scaffolding was erected in the main chapel (of the Mother House) to allow for the restoration of part of the fresco that adorns the back of the apse. This delicate task is entrusted to an artist from Algiers.’

In PE n° 130, 1st July 1924, it states, ‘On the 21st July, scaffolding will be erected that will enable the restoration of the fresco in the main chapel of the Mother House; the artist commissioned for this restoration should begin work in a few days.’

23 September 1934: Mass in celebration of the Golden Jubilee of Fr. Voillard

In PE n° 132, 1st September 1924, we read, ‘16th August, Assumption of the Most Holy Virgin. Rev. Fr. Girault sang the Solemn High Mass. The work of restoring the fresco in the main chapel has been completed, the scaffolding has been removed and we can once again admire the brushwork of that great artist Lazerges.’ (Jean-Raymond Hippolyte Lazerges, 1817-1887)

Before the start of the restoration of this great fresco, Émile Deckers made a reproduction that was sent to Rome when the Mother House was replaced by the present Generalate. We can admire this painting in the Conference Room.

Click over the painting to enlarge or click here to see full size with the names of the people represented.
The date which follows is the year of their deaths, the (s) indicating they left the Society

Information was given orally to Fr. Blin by Fr. Mercui in 1943. Fr. Blin wrote it down immediately. The names of the Fathers are on a large cardboard that Fr. Mercui had, which we keep in our Archives and is reproduced below.

Behind Fr. Chupin (standing, on the left) is the figure of Lazerges the painter's son, who is satisfied with a burnous. Beside this young man is Fr. Hacquard, though we can only see the top of his head. Fr. Hacquard was fully figured, but he was only a scholastic at the time. When the Cardinal saw that Hacquard, a scholastic, was represented in this way, (the painter got on well with Hacquard), he ordered Mr Lazerges to eliminate him. Therefore, the artist painted stones over Fr. Hacquard, allowing only the top of his head to appear. (Archive text).

Click on the area desired to see the 4 parts of the drawing enlarged -
or click here to see the whole drawing.

Finally, a photo of what remains of the fresco today.

Translated by Donald MacLeod M.Afr.