Desmarais & Robitaille is one of the oldest family firms in North America specializing in the liturgical arts. Our Montreal roots stretch back to 1879 when Élie Desmarais began importing ecclesiastical silverware from Europe. In 1909, Desmarais & Robitaille was born when Desmarais amalgamated his enterprise with Louis-Arthur Robitaille’s religious article import business.
The next two decades saw rapid growth in the church-goods catalogue market, expansion of the religious statuary and sewing studios, and the opening of branches in Ottawa and Toronto. By 1926, the year that Louis-Arthur Robitaille acquired control of the company, Desmarais & Robitaille reached across Canada and into the north-east United States.
The Great Depression and then World War II posed enormous challenges to the import market, but these were met successfully by the firm’s continuing shift to in-house production. In the 1940s Desmarais & Robitaille was operating its own glass and candle factories, and its Montreal studios were producing statues, liturgical vestments, sacred silverware and custom-designed church furnishings. The company also represented prestigious european art and stained-glass studios.
Robitaille’s son, André, became president of the firm in 1959. It would take his creative ingenuity to weather the next turbulent years. The liturgical reforms following the Second Vatican Council spelled the demise of the traditional market for church goods and sacred art. Hard hit, Desmarais & Robitaille was forced to close its candle and statue studios as well as the Toronto store.
André Robitaille put his artistic and liturgical expertise to work. Collaborating with an impressive group of artists and architects he began to build a design and consultation service directed towards the renovation and decoration of churches. The next decades would see the opening of the stained-glass studio (1971), the acquisition of the renowned Gilles Beaugrand Silver Studio (1983), and the establishment of a solid reputation in the liturgical arts. When Pope John-Paul II visited Toronto in 1984, the altar and vestments for the papal mass were designed and supplied by Desmarais & Robitaille.
Representing the family’s third generation, Gabriel Robitaille assumed presidency of the company in 1992. In 2009 Desmarais & Robitaille moved from the old, historic part of the city to modern premises located at 8300 Saint-Laurent Blvd, Montreal. The new site houses an impressive showroom along with studios where fine vestments, stained glass and gold and silver vessels are designed. From here, quality church furnishings are supplied to clients throughout North America.