Quebec City: Musee de L’Amerique Francophone
The history of the Francophone Museum:
The Musee de l’Amerique Francophone chronicles the history of French-speaking settlers in Quebec, especially that of the Catholic settlers. Since French is still the official language, and the French have been in Quebec since 1608, this is a pretty general topic encompassing most of Quebec civilization. But the collection includes many things of particular interest to Catholic travelers.
The museum is right next door to the Jesuit seminary. In 1993, the seminary’s chapel was deconsecrated, and became part of the museum. It’s a beautiful chapel designed by Joseph-Ferdinand Peachy and built in 1898 to resemble the Eglise de la Trinite in Paris. Peachy designed 100 Quebec buildings in the mid 19th century.
The chapel has 12 small side chapels and a larger one dedicated to Saint Francois de Laval, first bishop of Quebec. His remains used to reside here, but were moved when the chapel became a secular space. It’s now used as a conference room and auditorium. Stained glass windows depict local favorites Laval and Marie de l’Incarnation, foundress of the Ursuline nuns in Canada.
The chapel has a strange feeling to it, deconsecrated, but still full of sacred things. Laval’s remains left, but an enormous collection of saints’ relics stayed behind. Former seminary student Monsignor Joseph-Calixte Marquis (1821-1904) collected these bones, ashes, pieces of cloth and locks of hair from saints and martyrs in Europe. The museum displays some relics on the chapel walls and stores the rest. A Catholic could feel sad for these deserted relics. On the other hand, since the secular site holds lively events, they attend way more parties than the average relic.
In the museum proper, a large exhibit on New France includes some possessions of early Catholic missionaries, such as a portable altar set (see photo above) and a “Catholic ladder.” This pictorial device was first invented by Bishop Francois-Norbert Blanchet, first archbishop of Oregon, to instruct illiterate settlers and Natives. It illustrates Christian virtues that lead to salvation. The French and English bilingual version housed in the museum was designed by Albert Lacombe, an Oblate missionary who worked with Francophones, Metis, Cree and Blackfoot communities.
The museum is a worthwhile stop for anybody interested in Quebec’s Catholic heritage and a more general history of French-speaking Quebec. If you visit, be sure to take a few minutes to visit the martyrs’ relics in the now-secular chapel.
Finding the Francophone Museum:
The Museum is right next door to the Cathedral, so it is easy to find.
Address: 2, côte de la Fabrique, Québec City (Québec) G1R 3V6
GPS coordinates: 46° 48′ 50.4072” N, 71° 12′ 24.6492” W
Tel: +1 (418) 643-2158 Toll-free +1 (866) 710-8031
email: [email protected]
Click here for the official website of Musee de L’Amerique Francophone
Article written by travel writer Teresa Bergen