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On 28 June they reached Valparaiso, four months after leaving Santa Cruz, having covered roughly 16.600 km in six months from Le Havre. Chanel wrote that the same voyage should in better conditions have been possible in two months, which is a bit optimistic.[1] The Delphine dropped anchor at one o’clock in the afternoon. The Picpus Fathers in Valparaiso came on board to welcome their confreres and their Marist guests.[2] They accompanied Bishop Pompallier in full regalia to the chapel in their house, where they all sang at the top of their voices the Te Deum. The Picpus Fathers’ house was big enough to offer hospitality to all of them. Next day, the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, they sang a pontifical High Mass, à la Lyonnaise. The only parish priest of this town of 35.000 people came to pay his respects to the Bishop.[3]

The Marists got first-hand information about the missions. While the Marists were in Valparaiso two missionaries arrived from the islands: Fr. Maigret, vicar general of the mission, and Br. Columban. The Marists heard all about the Gambier Islands, and how, in two years, the entire population of the island group, including the king, had been baptized. The Picpus missionaries spoke highly of the faith and the lives of their neophytes. They also warned about the resistance the Marists could expect from the Methodists: six months earlier four Picpus Fathers had been expelled from Tahiti, and others had been refused entry there.[4]

France was well represented in Chile by a consul, resident in Santiago, and by the commander of the French naval station in Valparaiso. There were friendly visits to and by the consul and the acting commander of the naval station. Pompallier wrote an extensive report of the voyage so far to the minister for the navy, Claude du Campe de Rosamel, in which he praises the co-operative attitude of the French officials: ‘Wherever I meet with Frenchmen in positions of authority, I get a feeling of the goodwill of the King and the protection of France; this dear patrie shows that the Catholic missionaries who leave her bosom for strange countries do not become indifferent strangers to her’. Pointing to the enormous distances and the expenses of travelling he expresses the hope that the missionaries may at times be allowed to travel on naval vessels. He points to the dangers that the missionaries face from the primitive islanders, often maltreated by foreign visitors and worthy of compassion rather than punishment if they take revenge. Let the religion do her work of healing the scars and of treating their moral weaknesses. He recalls the difficulties that Catholic missionaries often meet from the non-Catholic ministers who already have gained a great influence in many island countries. The only support he asks in this regard is that the islands where French priests are present will regularly receive peaceful visits of the French navy. Pompallier sent this letter directly to the minister but with copy to Colin, asking him to see what he can do to support his requests.[5]

Accompanied by Peter Chanel and two Picpus priests Pompallier went on a visit of several days to the capital, Santiago, some 45 km from Valparaiso, where they were the guests of Bishop Vicuña.[6]

The missionaries enjoyed all the new things they saw. They were surprised by the churches in Valparaiso and in Santiago. Writing to his friend Bourdin, Chanel did not miss a thing: the carriages, the horses and the abominable state of the roads. He commented on the singing in the churches, on the altars, the tabernacles and the cemeteries. He admired the piety of the people, and the large numbers who took part in the retreats that the Picpus Fathers organized. He expressed his surprise at the penitential floggings that the people administered to themselves in public. Nothing escaped his interest and attention.[7]

Chanel must have walked around and talked to lots of people. A sailor of the French corvette Ariane told him of an Englishman who had just finished charting the Strait of Magellan. It had taken him three years to do it, but he told Chanel that the dangerous and long way around the Cape would in the future no longer be necessary. He talked to a ship’s captain (probably Captain Stocks who would later on take them from Tahiti onwards) who avowed he would not go around the Cape for 20.000 francs! Bataillon was the first to contact a ship that might take them to Hawaii: the Europa, an American brig that already had transported Picpus missionaries to the islands, under a certain Captain Shaw.[8]

The stay of the Marists in the Picpus community was somewhat marred by the officious behaviour of Pompallier. The Picpus missionaries failed to pay Pompallier the formal deference he was used to, perhaps even calling him Brother Francis, as they were used to do to the unpretentious Bishop Rouchouze (frère Jérome). He did not hide his hurt feelings towards their hosts and complained later that there was not a good spirit among the Picpus religious, ‘because hierarchical rank obviously meant little to them’![9]


  1. EC, 35 [1]. The Venus left Brest on 29 December 1836. and reached Valparaiso on 26 April 1837: four months, cf. Jore op. cit., I, pp. 90f. Bishop Rouchouze, travelling on the same Delphine two years earlier had taken four months as well, from 20.10.1834 to 19.02.1835, cf Jore, op. cit., II, p. 114. The next group of missionaries would do it in the southern summer in three months (from 11 September to 12 December 1838). The estimates of the distances are by courtesy of M. Puyn, ret. Royal Dutch Air force.
  2. On the Picpus missions in the Pacific, cf. Rademakers, op. cit. pp. 66ff.
  3. LRO, 12 [170 - 171].
  4. LRO, 16 [6] with footnote, n. 6. Cf. LC, doc. 164. The Marists still called all Protestants ‘Methodists’.
  5. LRO, docs. 12 [173], 18 [14] & doc. 20.
  6. LRO, doc. 12 [174-178]. Mayère, Père Chanel, je vous écris, p. 24, adds they were received by the president of Chile, but it is not clear where he gets this information from.
  7. EC, doc. 37 [6, 7 & 8].
  8. EC, doc. 37 [15]. LRO, doc. 12 [177 & 179]. Jore, II, p. 115.
  9. Cf. Bonamie, 19.08.1838, information from Juan Schuester, SS.CC., general archivist. Three years later Maxime Petit told Colin about it, LRO, doc. 56 [4]. He thought Colin should know so he could apologize to the Picpus superior general. Petit wrote together with Servant. Although on other points he also was critical of Servant, he told Colin about the incident in Valparaiso as something he was sure of. He could have heard it about it also on Wallis or Futuna. We cannot exclude that someone else had already told Colin in a letter that we do not know of and that this is what withheld Colin from taking up contact with the Picpus.

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