Born near La Rochelle, France, Chapdelaine was ordained priest for the diocese of Coutances in 1843. After seven years as a diocesan priest, he joined the PFMS and was assigned to China in 1852. Two years later, Chapdelaine began to minister in Kwangsi (Guangxi) Province, which at that time was not open to foreigners. Arrested, he did not heed the advice of a friendly Chinese magistrate to go back to Canton (Guangzhou). In February 1856 he was detained again, tortured, and kept overnight in a small cage to be ridiculed by passersby. He died of exhaustion the following morning. His head was then chopped off and remained on display for several days at the execution ground.
The cruel death of Chapdelaine gave France an excuse to mount a joint armed expedition with Great Britain against China. The conflict, often referred to as the Second Opium War, or the Arrow War, ended in a humiliating defeat for China. In the ensuing Sino-French Treaty of Tientsin (1858) and Convention of Peking (1860), France won considerable rights for the establishment of Christianity throughout China and further enhanced its role as protector for all the foreign missionaries and their Chinese followers. Chapdelaine was beatified in May 1900 by Pope Leo XIII.
This article is reprinted from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, Macmillan Reference USA, copyright (c) 1998 Gerald H. Anderson, by permission of The Gale Group; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.
- Adrien Launay, La salle des martyrs du Seminaire des Missions-Etrangeres (1900), Memorial de la Societe des Missions Etrangeres, vol. 2 (1916), and Les bienheureux martyrs des Missions Etrangeres (1921). See also Societe des Missions-Etrangeres de Paris, Memorial de la Societe des Missions-Etrangeres (1888).