The religious heritage of Quebec
Religion was already playing in Old Quebec a major role. No wonder the city on Cap Diamant above the St. Lawrence River was one of the first centers of French settlement in Canada. 1608 was built by Samuel de Champlain as Quebec City at the foot of the towering promontory at the site of the great river from which it opens to the Atlantic Ocean.
The ships from France were able to reach this spot easily during the warm summer months and transported in the course of the early years of New France more and more people from France approaching, which should develop and take possession of the Canadian territory for the French crown. The new city quickly grew up. At first it was men, above all, who dared to undertake the adventure in the New World, but it soon became clear to the French authorities that the settlement undertaking in Canada was only successful if women came to the country.
And so, over time, Quebec City became a reflection of French society as it existed in Europe - including all the facilities that existed in the French homeland.
Religious orders ensured a regular life in Quebec
It was mainly two groups that controlled life in the French colony: soldiers and priests. It was the task of the church representatives, together with the administrative officials, to bring order to the daily lives of the people of New France. And this can still be seen everywhere in today's Quebec City: many of the buildings that tower so imposingly over the St. Lawrence River go back to the work of religious orders, who from here exercised their influence and sought to strengthen it. A stroll through Quebec City's Old Quarter lets visitors guess how great the Church's influence has been in Quebec history.
Schools lead religious orders in Quebec City
The church still plays a big role in schools today: there are schools that existed in Quebec in the early days and still serve the same purpose today. On the Rue Donnacona there is a girls 'school of the Ursulines, where already in the time of New France the settlers' daughters were trained together with native girls from the area in the things that were expected of women at the time: they had to find their way around the house, clothes can produce and educate children. Just a few hundred meters away is the Seminaire du Quebec, where once the colony's priests were trained. This building is still used for education: it now houses part of Laval University and Francois de Laval College.
Churches bear witness to the exciting history of Quebec City
Those who visit various churches during a walk through Quebec City will soon realize how many different Christian faiths there are in the city: not far from the girls' school already mentioned is the Anglican Cathedral, a clear symbol of English influence in Quebec. And very close to the Seminaire du Quebec stands the Notre Dame de Quebec Basilica, the city's Catholic cathedral.
There are also countless churches and prayer houses where Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Unitarians and other religious groups hold their masses. It is also worthwhile to look at the churches from the inside, because this gives a good idea of the development of the city: in the church of Notre Dame des Victoires at the Place Royale in Quebec's lower town, the time of the 18. Century again alive. The decor of the Saint Jean-Baptiste church on Rue St. Jean is much more magnificent. This church is a bit off the usual tourist routes in Quebec, but definitely worth a visit.
Religion in the Quebec of today
We ask Steve, who accompanies us on our walk through the religious history of Quebec, why the Sunday mass, which we witness in the Basilica Notre Dame, is so little visited.
His answer shows how strong the Church's influence on events in Quebec up to the recent past: “Quebec Catholics used to be very devout. The churches were filled to the last seat on Sundays. This has changed with the political developments of the past decades, as the Catholic Church insisted on maintaining traditional traditions and spoke out against political changes. As a result, the Quebecers fell behind in the overall development of the country over time. When they realized this, they turned against the church. It even went so far that Christian terms were used in many families as swear words. So today you see almost only old people in the churches. ”
Steve likes to go to church, but that's simply because it's a place where thinking and meditating is good. Religious motivation does not play a role with him either, he assures us.
Monasteries and religious orders in Quebec City
Once upon a time it was the Jesuits, the Recollects and the Ursulines who controlled the fortunes of the city of Quebec. And this ecclesiastical representation can still be felt in the old town: the convent of the Ursulines is still standing in its original position, and the nuns are still teaching girls in the traditional school on the Rue Donnacona. The Jesuits are actively involved in education at the Seminaire du Quebec. Anyone who walks through the old town of Quebec with open eyes will get a good look at the role of religion in Quebec City's daily life.
A walk to the traces that the religious heritage of Quebec has left is easy to plan on a tour of Eastern Canada.
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Source: own research on site with the kind assistance of Bonjour Quebec
Text: © Monika Fuchs, TravelWorldOnline
Photos: © Copyright Monika Fuchs, TravelWorldOnline