"Recueillement" by Béla Simó
Notre-Dame-de-la-Salette, the Lièvre River, and Mont Salettin
It was as a result of a mining boom that began around 1875 that the village centre of Notre-Dame-de-la-Salette came to be. Attracted by high wages, several families settled along the Lièvre River. Soon thereafter, a school and post office were constructed on the east bank. In 1879, a wood chapel was built at the foot of Mont Salettin. As the site of many historic events celebrated in the village, the chapel became an important focal point for Catholic pilgrimages. In 1883, the Notre-Dame-de-la-Salette parish was officially established.
Both the parish and Mont Salettin were named for a French sanctuary built near the village of La Salette, famous for its apparition of the Virgin Mary in 1846.
In the 1890s, the resident priest, Wilfrid-Damien Richer, erected a cross on the summit of Mont Salettin and built a large staircase and path leading to its location. It was inaugurated on September 14, 1893 and is still a place of contemplation, welcoming pilgrims.
"Recueillement", 2017, by Béla Simó
Composed of a slender, curved cross, this work brings to mind the first wooden cross erected at the top of Mont Salettin, itself represented by the rounded shape of the top portion of the wings of an angel. The ornamental ripples at the bottom of the wings represent the waves of the Lièvre River, both a source of life and destruction for the community. On April 26, 1908, a landslide on the western embankment resulted in a gigantic tidal wave of clay, debris, and ice, which flooded the village on the opposite side. Thirty-four people lost their lives, including 25 children. The tragedy marked profoundly the collective imagination and memory of the community. A bench invites visitors to collect their thoughts, pray, or meditate.
A native of Transylvania, Romania, Béla Simó studied sculpture in Austria with the internationally renowned artist Josef Elter. He immigrated to Canada in 1987 and lived for several years in Whitehorse, Yukon. He has twice been presented with the Yukon Advanced Artist Award. He now resides in Val-des-Monts, Québec and draws inspiration from Canadian nature.