What is the Ark?


The Ark of the New Covenant is a first in the history of International Eucharistic Congresses. Rich in meaning and symbolism, this work of art allows us to deepen our understanding of the Eucharist.

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The Project

The Origin of the Ark

The preparations for the International Eucharistic Congress got underway with a Youth Summit held in May 2005. The participants at this initial mobilization of youth enjoyed a weekend of renewal and discussions. At the summit, the first in the lead-up to the congress, they also noted how the Cross of World Youth Day had been used and expressed the desire to produce a symbolic object which could travel the country to prepare the way for the congress.


A committee of youth from Quebec City and Montreal was mandated to develop this idea. Following its reflections, the committee recommended to the IEC Steering Committee that it consider using an original artistic work.

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The Ark in the Context of the 2008 International Eucharistic Congress

This artistic creation will expand the horizon of our understanding of the Eucharist and will serve as the springboard for a wide variety of activities related to the three main objectives of the Eucharistic Congress:


  • Promote Eucharistic catechesis as the Paschal mystery of Christ.
  • Encourage fully active and conscious participation in the Liturgy through the hearing of the Word of God, the offering itself and the sense of brotherhood in the community. 
  • Take another step towards greater human solidarity through the commitment to transform the world by concrete actions as a sign of the Kingdom in the heart of today’s world.

The originality of the Ark is a first in the history of International Eucharistic Congresses. Our wish is that it will foster creativity in the places where it travels and serve to bring all generations together. We hope that it will be the impetus for an ideal opportunity to unite many people in Christian reflection to help them discover, deepen and celebrate the Eucharistic Mystery to render it in every way a gift of God for the life of the world. We thank you for sharing the promise of this initiative with us.


The Meaning of the Name

The Ark: A Chest
In this case, the Ark of the New Covenant is a seat, as well as a container. It is a “seat” for the King, that is, Christ, present under the form of the Eucharistic species exposed in a monstrance. It is also a chest containing the Scriptures, the Bible, which, proclaimed in the liturgy, becomes the presence of Christ who through his word teaches the people, his Church.


The New and Eternal Covenant

Its name “Ark of the New Covenant,” of Biblical origin, refers to the spiritual experience of the people of Israel and the pact they concluded with God in the time of Moses in Sinai. Since that time, Jesus signed the New Covenant with the people of the Old Covenant. The expression “New Covenant” refers in fact to the new and eternal Covenant, which came from Jesus Christ, marked by the Pascal Mystery of his death and resurrection and celebrated in the Eucharist. 


Mary, Ark of the New Covenant – A Marian Title
The title, “Ark of the Covenant” was bestowed on the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus. 
      > Download the PDF version of the Guide for more details.



The Symbolism

The Ark as a Symbolic Boat
The base of the Ark is in the form of a boat. It brings to mind Noah’s Ark, the vessel that God commanded Noah to build. And it was this ark which, thanks to the provisions it contained, saved Noah and his family, as well as two of every species of living animals from the Flood (cf. Gn 6: 18-22).

The Ark also refers to the boat of Peter, the disciple whom Jesus will make the foundation of his church (Jn 1: 42). Therefore, ever since the institution of the New Covenant, the boat has been a symbol of the Church, the people of God who are journeying together. Just as Christ told Peter to put out into deep water (cf. Lk 5: 4), we are sent to all nations to bear witness to the Gospel.


The Angels in Adoration Before the Mystery

In ancient Israel, the presence of God among his people was indicated by the cloud that enveloped the Ark of the Covenant. God would come to meet them between the wings of the seraphim above the seat of the ark (cf. Ex 25: 21). Through the symbolic nature of the Ark of the New Covenant, the angels are turned in adoration towards the mystery of Christ, which the Ark as a whole represents.

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The Base of the Ark… a People Journeying to a World of Abundance
The five different types of wood used for the base of the ark symbolize the universality of the Church and indicate that the Good News of the Gospel is for all nations, which are called to be one in Jesus Christ. In total eleven types of wood make up the Ark.

     > Click here for the list of wood types.

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The Ship’s Hold, a Space for Eucharistic Commitment

The ship’s hold at the base of the Ark is a place where people can put testimony of their commitment as Christians, to mark the passage of the Ark as it travels from one community to the next. In his encyclical God is Love, Benedict XVI reminds us that “a Eucharist which does not pass over into the concrete practice of love is intrinsically fragmented” (14). The Eucharist and the Church’s mission are thus forever intertwined. That is why we have included Eucharistic commitment as one of the suggested activities in this document.


An Ark That Is Carried

In Israel, the Ark was carried; it accompanied the people of God on their journeys. The Ark of the New Covenant will be carried in processions, from one diocese to another, one church to another, and one place of worship to another. It will thus accompany the local Church on its journey, the people of God, believers (Christians, Catholics) on their faith journey, the young and the not so young, in Christ’s footsteps, in their spiritual preparation for the International Eucharistic Congress.




The Icons

At the top of the Ark of the New Covenant are large icons which represent the various moments in the Paschal Mystery, or the Paschal Triduum:

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The Last Supper, which Jesus celebrates with His disciples and which the Church commemorates on Holy Thursday



The passion and the death of Jesus, which the Church commemorates on Good Friday


The vigil of Mary, His mother, which is celebrated on Holy Saturday


The resurrection of Jesus on Easter morning, which is celebrated on Easter Sunday


There are other smaller icons which also bring to mind the various aspects of the Eucharist, the table of the New Covenant:

    • The multiplication of the loaves (cf. Mt 14, 19-21; 15, 36-37)
    • The wedding at Cana (cf. Jn 2, 1-11)
    • The washing of the feet (cf. Jn 13, 13-15)
    • The disciples at Emmaus (cf. Lc 24, 13-35).

        > Download the PDF version of the Guide for more details.



The Artists

The Design Committee
Following the Youth Summit in 2005, a committee made up of young adults from Montreal and Quebec City was given the mandate to design the religious symbol that would serve to prepare the way for the Congress. The members of the committee were: Véronique Rondeau, Chantal Laure Faneus, Marie-Dave, Clément Laffitte, Jean-Francis Clermont-Legros, Guylain Roussel, Dominique Vandal, Sister Cécile Gagné, RHSJ, Sister Doris Lamontagne, PFM, Father Robert Gendreau, Camille Jacques, OSM, and Valérie Cloutier.

The committee’s proposal was enthusiastically received by the organizing committee which is helping Cardinal Marc Ouellet to establish the main orientations of the IEC. The organizing committee enriched the proposal by adding a number of themes, including that of the angels in adoration. The name finally chosen was The Ark of the New Covenant.


The Artist, Alain Rioux : Wood sculpture as a spiritual journey

Alain Rioux is a 45-year-old artist from Quebec City. This self-taught carpenter and sculptor works out of his home in Ancienne-Lorette. He met his wife-to-be, Chantal Dubois, during a visit by Pope Jean-Paul II to Quebec City in 1984. Alain and Chantal have two children.

Alain grew up in a family of carpenters, who introduced him to carpentry when he was a young boy. But at the same time, he became interested in the visual arts. Through such media as painting, drawing, modeling and photography, he explored and developed his talents. Alain always had a workspace that would allow him to give full reign to his imagination. As a young adult, he started a small woodworking business. Customers also sought his talents in a variety of areas, including the production of background decor, advertising signs and to-scale models. He later completed a year of visual arts studies.


One day in 1994, while working as a teacher, Alain went to his studio to make a sculpture of the Virgin to guide him in his prayers. It was through this work that he rediscovered his love of wood sculpture, which he had put aside. It also led him to Saint-Jean-Port-Joli, where a sculptor agreed to give him a few lessons.



On March 19, 1995, he began a one-year training program at the École-Atelier de sculpture de Québec in Limoilou. In April 1996, he started up his own company, Art 3D Alain Rioux enr., with a small room in his apartment as a studio. He has created various sculptures, including several with religious themes. He has also made liturgical furnishings such as vigil lights, prayer benches, crosses, altars, ambos, tabernacles, monstrances, statuary pedestals, and so on.



September 2005 saw the start of the project for the Ark of the New Covenant. Alain made designs of the work and began sculpting it in the winter of 2006. The construction of this symbolic ark represents his desire to serve the Church in a meaningful way and to explore new artistic challenges. It is the crowning achievement of Alain’s ten years as a professional artist.


Alain Rioux - Carpenter/sculptor

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How the icons were selected – A story of collaboration with Marc Lepage

Marc Lepage is a man who lives life with passion! He has been more than able to juggle his time as a spiritual life coordinator with his community and humanitarian involvement. He works full-time in a high school on Quebec City’s south shore and has participated in missionary projects overseas.

Humanitarian aid has long been one of Marc’s interests. In 1999, during a stay in Romania with a group of young students, he fell in love with the country and its people. Since that time, every year for three to four months, he has been devoting his time to a Romanian orphanage, the Casa de Copii Sfanta Maria. This orphanage, which is run by the Oblate Sisters of the Assumption, is home to more than 100 children.

This orphanage and others with which Marc regularly collaborates receive funding for their operations through the sale of icons produced by Romanian Orthodox monks. The profits from these sales are supporting these orphanages in their commitment to help the children under their care.

In developing the concept for the Ark, the committee was deeply moved by the beauty and simplicity of these icons. It chose them because part of the mission of the Eucharistic Congress is to demonstrate international solidarity. In addition, helping to fund the humanitarian work of these orphanages was seen as being very much a part of the missionary work to which we are called by the Eucharist.



The Dimensions

The Ark is approximately 1 m (3.3 ft) long, 0.6 m (2 ft) wide and 0.6 m (2 ft) high. Because of its shape, it can be moved quite easily and integrated into various decors, locations and settings. Two long poles inserted on either side create handles, so that the Ark, which weighs about 40 kg (90 lbs), can be carried by four persons during processions or in other circumstances.