Quebec City: Notre Dame Cathedral
The History of Notre Dame Cathedral in Quebec City:
In 1629, British privateers took over Quebec and sent all the French settlers back to France, including Samuel de Champlain, the French explorer known as the father of New France. Champlain immediately began planning a comeback, enlisting the support of Mary. He vowed that if France got Quebec back, he’d build a church to Our Lady of Recovery.
Sure enough, France regained Quebec and Champlain built his promised chapel. Despite a move and several fires, over the years Champlain’s chapel morphed into a cathedral: Notre Dame de Quebec.
About the Cathedral:
The cathedral is full of gorgeous works of art and is important historically. During the 18th century, Quebec was the largest parish in the world, encompassing land east to Newfoundland and south all the way to New Orleans. Detroit, Saint Louis, the whole French New World was part of this diocese, with the cathedral……the mother church.
Stained glass windows in the cathedral’s lower level commemorate the life of Mary. An upstairs series of windows depict doctors of the church. In the front of the church stand statues of founders of the major orders: Benedict, Dominic, Ignatius and Francis. This is why tours to the cathedral always start with viewing a beautiful statue of Notre Dame de Recouvrance, or Our Lady of Recovery. Tours are available in French, English and Spanish.
The centerpiece is the baldachin (canopy) above the altar. Instead of the typical crucifix as a focal point, Notre Dame has an enormous gold-leafed statue of a triumphant Christ, looking strong and healthy, holding the cross in one hand. Visitors and locals can find inspiration in this uplifting interpretation of Christ.
The cathedral also has chapels for different devotions, including a Saint Anne chapel and one for the Holy Family, a strong devotion in Quebec. This is also the resting place of Saint Francois de Laval, the first bishop of Quebec, who was canonized by Pope Francis in April, 2014.
Laval’s eternal rest has been twice interrupted. Despite his wish to be buried in the nearby Jesuit seminary he founded, he was buried under the cathedral instead. The records were not very detailed, so the exact location was lost. But eventually a workman discovered Laval’s coffin. At that time, church authorities decided to comply with Laval’s burial wish. They transferred his remains to the seminary chapel. But in 1993, that chapel was desacralized, causing a dilemma. The seminary and cathedral came to an interesting arrangement. The cathedral gave ownership of a small part of its building to the seminary. Laval’s remains returned to the cathedral. The seminary takes its duties very seriously, sending security to patrol and cleaners to take care of that small part of the cathedral that contains Laval’s remains.
The tour also includes a visit to the crypts. They were modernized in the 1980s, so are very well-lit and not at all creepy. Most of Quebec’s bishops are buried here, along with consolidated remains from surrounding cemeteries. Each bishop’s resting place is adorned with his colorful coat of arms. The crypt also features a chapel commemorating the first eight Jesuits who came to Quebec done in a strongly 1950s style.
The cathedral has the only holy door outside of Europe. This special door is usually sealed, but during Jubilee years it’s unsealed so that pilgrims can enter through it. It opened in December 2015 for Pope Francis’ Year of Mercy and will remain open until November 2016.
Finding Notre Dame Cathedral in Quebec City:
Address: 16 Rue De Buade, Québec City, QC G1R 4A1, Canada
GPS coordinates: 46° 48′ 49.6080” N, 71° 12′ 21.5460” W
Tel: +1 (418) 692-2533 Fax: +1 (418) 692-586
Click here for the official website of Notre Dame de Quebec.
Article written by travel writer Teresa Bergen