The Martyrdom of Fathers Brébeuf and Lalemant (shown right)
was painted by Joseph Légaré
in the 1840s.



In 1940, E.J. Pratt (below) won the Governor General's Award for Poetry or Drama for his epic poem Brébeuf and His Brethren.

Ring of
Light
Anglican Network in
Canada Parish
Matteo Ricci
Jesuit missionary

Brébeuf Among the Huron

Saint Jean de Brébeuf (1593-1649) was a French Jesuit missionary to New France, who worked primarily among the Huron Indians in Ontario, Canada, and became a martyr.

Jean de Brébeuf was born in Condé-sur-Vire, Normandy.   He first arrived in the New World in 1625 as a missionary to the nomadic Montagnais.   He was sent to the Huron territory in 1626, he learned their language and preached there until 1629.   That year Quebec was captured by the Kirke brothers and the Jesuits were forced to return to France.

In 1633, Brébeuf traveled again to New France, with French explorer Samuel de Champlain.   The following year he founded the mission of Sainte Marie among the Hurons in the area of Georgian Bay, Lake Huron.   Brébeuf was an accomplished linguist and supervised the preparation of a Huron grammar and dictionary.   In 1640, following a smallpox epidemic, the Huron attacked him and his companion and damaged their mission.   He then began a mission among the Neutral, but they regarded him as a sorceror.   In 1644, he returned to Huronia.

In 1649 Iroquois braves at war with the Huron captured Brébeuf and Jesuit missionary Gabriel Lalemant, his associate, and took them to St-Ignace.   There they were fastened to stakes and tortured to death by scalping, mock baptism using boiling water, fire, necklaces of red hot hatchets and mutilation.   Brébeuf did not make a single outcry while he was being tortured.   The astounded Iroquois cut out his heart and ate it in hopes of gaining his courage.

Brébeuf, Lalemant, and six other missionaries, known collectively as the Jesuit North American Martyrs, were canonized in 1930.

Brébeuf's bones are buried at the Martyrs' Shrine near Midland, Ontario. The Shrine Church was erected in 1826 in honor of Canada's eight martyred missionaries.   The 75-acre grounds include The Martyrs' Hall, Lookout, Picnic Tables, Gardens, Walkways, Restrooms, Religious Article and Souvenir Shop, Cafeteria and the Lalande Hostel.   The recreated village of Ste-Marie among the Hurons, originally a French Jesuit mission, is adjacent to the Martyr's Shrine.

The sport of Lacrosse was originated by the Algonquin.   Jean de Brébeuf first saw the game in 1638 and called it la crosse because the sticks reminded him of a bishop's crozier or crosse.

The "Huron Carol" ("Jesous Ahatonhia"), attributed to Jean de Brébeuf, adapted a French folk melody to Huron words; a modified version remains in popular use at Christmas.