Notre Dame de Quebec Cathedral-Basilica and the Holy Door

Neither Justin or I are religious in any way, nor do we practice any particular faith. However, religious buildings can be such beautiful, historical places and Notre Dame de Quebec was no exception. The church was celebrating its 350th anniversary when we visited, making it the oldest of all parishes in North America, north of Mexico.

History of Notre Dame de Québec

The Cathedral has been located at the same site since 1647, but has burned to the ground twice. The first time, in 1759, it was destroyed during the Siege of Quebec, and was re-built according to the original plans with an added belltower. In 1922, the church was again completely ravaged by fire and had to be re-built. In 1989, it was designed as a national historical site of Canada. The church is the final resting place of four governors of New France, and the bishops of the diocese of Québec, including François de Laval, Quebec’s first bishop.

The Interior of the Church

The interior decorations of the church are quite impressive. Designed in the Rococo style, the ceilings are extremely high and everything appears to be dripping in gold. There are magnificent stained glass windows lining the outer walls. One of the most remarkable pieces inside the Cathedral is the Baldacchino, a brilliant golden sculpture over the altar at the front. We enjoyed a few quiet moments here as we viewed the many statues and works of art.

At the entrance of the Cathedral
The Baldacchino over the altar at the front
Facing back towards the front entrance

The Holy Door

The Cathedral-Basilica Notre Dame de Québec is celebrating a Jubilee as it turned 350 years old in 2014. A Jubilee can be described as a time for a new start or new outlook on life. To celebrate the 350th anniversary of the Cathedral, a Holy Door was constructed at Notre Dame de Québec and people are able to cross through the door before it is sealed shut at the end of 2014. It will not be reopened until 2025, the next Holy Year of the Roman Catholic Church. Each of the four papal basilicas in Rome has a holy door, which are sealed shut from the inside and are only opened during Jubilee years. This holy door is the first one located outside of Europe. From the Notre Dame de Québec website:

A Holy Door is a symbol of oneness with the Universal Church. It is also a symbol of convocation, an invitation to persons of good will to enter, whatever their religious denominations.

Crossing the Holy Door is a spiritual undertaking in which any person of goodwill can participate regardless of religion. Before passing through the door, I took the opportunity to reflect on my own journeys through life thus far, and contemplated the ways that I could be a better person, to myself, my loved ones, and within our society.

It was a unique experience being able to cross through a Holy Door. Even though I’m not religious in the slightest, I can see the positive aspects of this meditative ritual, the self-reflection, and wanting to transform your own life for the better.

The door must be crossed from the outside of the church to the inside. It is recommended that you spend a short period of time in the garden beside the church to meditate and reflect before crossing the Holy Door. The Holy Door is located beside the main entrance.

Inside the church after crossing the Holy Door

Entering the church and crossing the Holy Door is free of charge. The Holy Door is open from 8:45am – 8:15pm until September 1st. From September 2nd until December 27th, you can cross through between the hours of 8:45am and 3:45pm. On December 28th, there will be a special ceremony where the door is closed and sealed shut until the year 2025.

We really enjoyed our visit to the Cathedral-Basilica of Notre Dame de Québec. We didn’t take a guided tour through the church, although they were available. We walked through at our own pace. It is really nice that admission to the church is free, so everyone can enjoy the stunning architecture and interior decorations. We didn’t find that it was a very crowded attraction either, and there was only a minimal wait in front of the Holy Door.

The Seminary of Quebec

At first, we didn’t really explore this area as we just didn’t notice it at first. One night, we were just walking around the church and we decided to stroll through a tunnel that took us to a central courtyard. We thought it looked pretty neat, but we still really had no idea where we were. Not until we came home did we realize that we walked through the courtyard of the Séminaire de Québec.

Courtyard of the Séminaire de Québec

The Roman Catholic priests in Quebec City reside here, and there are a vast number of historical buildings that are a part of the Seminary, built between the 17th and 20th centuries. The Vieux-Séminaire buildings were constructed in the image of 17th century French colleges and has a spectacular courtyard in the centre. The Seminary was designated as a national historical site in 1929.

It was a brisk summer night as we sauntered through the courtyard, marveling at the impressive structures all around us. It was part of a lovely evening walk where we didn’t really know what we would stumble upon or where we would end up. Quebec City is an incredibly safe place to walk around at night – not once did we feel threatened by anyone or anything. While exploring during the daytime is best for attractions and sight-seeing, the city is quite beautiful at night and there weren’t many other people around, giving us the impression that we had the place mostly to yourselves!

I would highly recommend visiting both the Notre Dame de Québec and walking through the courtyard of the Séminaire de Québec if you’re a fan of history and architecture! Located outside of the courtyard beside the Cathedral, the Musée de l’Amérique Francophone gives tours of the seminary grounds and the interior in summer. We didn’t realize this while we were there, but if you have the time and you’re interested in this sort of thing, it might be worth looking into.

Notre Dame de Québec

16 Rue De Buade

Québec, QC

Which spectacular churches have you visited before?

50 Responses

  1. Dave
    | Reply

    The interior of the Cathedral is quite beautiful – such intricate design and detail. I was also impressed by the Holy Door and agree with what you wrote about meditation, regardless of creed. The courtyard of the seminary is very picturesque and it’s great that you guys had it to yourselves!

    • I’m glad you agree! 🙂 It was a very beautiful and peaceful place, and especially the courtyard at night!

  2. Adelina | Pack Me To
    | Reply

    Wow, the inside of the church is gorgeous! You got some great shots. It’s funny to see the TV screens between the pews though. Technology has managed to seep itself into every part of life it seems.

    • Oh yes, the TV screens were quite jarring, I suppose they become useful though! It was also funny that there were a couple of construction workers installing something while we were there, trying so hard to be VERY quiet as to not disturb anyone!

  3. Katie Featherstone
    | Reply

    The decoration inside is incredible!

  4. Axelle Lot
    | Reply

    Exceptional beautiful pictures!

  5. Tripper
    | Reply

    I love Rococo style, it’s flamboyant and detailed. Not being a religious person either, I love visiting religious monuments too.

  6. differentdoors
    | Reply

    Beautiful. What’s really unique is this strange sense of old meets new. All of that detailing and historic design, and it doesn’t look a day old!

  7. Michael Huxley
    | Reply

    I totally get what you mean, I don’t follow any particular organised religion either, but I do love visiting religious buildings and sites. I think the architecture and artwork alone in many of them more than make any visit worthwhile. But I totally agree that regardless of any creed (or lack of it) they can also be great places for inner reflection. Great article.

  8. Karen Warren
    | Reply

    Lovely church. Like you I don’t have any religious persuasion but I love religious buildings. I’d never really associated Canada with old buildings, but I was obviously wrong!

    • It seems to be a common theme as a few people have commented that, that they love religious places but aren’t necessarily religious. I’m glad we can enjoy these places as well for their beauty! Canada doesn’t have nearly the amount of old buildings, and definitely not as old as many other places, but this one is pretty old in terms of our country!

  9. Bente Vold Klausen
    | Reply

    I totally agree that churches are nice to visit when traveling even if you are not religious. Sometimes we need the calm and beauty a church can provide no matter what our beliefs are. Thanks for letting me learn more about Canada.

  10. Marie-Carmen Infantes
    | Reply

    Lovely church! It looks very modern!
    I like to visit holy places when we travel, they tend to hold so much culture! My favourite church was probably one in Pragues, gorgeous architecture!

  11. Anne Klien
    | Reply

    I love doing Visita Iglesia 🙂 nice photos

  12. The Crowded Planet
    | Reply

    This is a really spectacular church! Coming from Europe I’ve always found churches in the ‘New World’ to look too new and polished for my liking, but this one is truly amazing! I love the stained glass. You were so lucky to be alone, truly the best way to appreciate such a place.

  13. Christina
    | Reply

    I agree with “The Crowded Planet”. Our churches in Europe look and are way older but the Notre Dame de Quebec looks like a great building to visit. Especially the glass entrance with the Holy Mary (I guess) is beautiful.

    • It was a wonderful place to visit, we really enjoyed our time there and recommend that visitors to Quebec check it out!

  14. Kristen Sarra
    | Reply

    Thanks for sharing. You’re pics are beautiful. I think it’s a nice site to put the spotlight on as we (especially us North Americans) tend to sometimes forget about all the European influences in our own countries. Great piece!

    • Yes exactly! We’ve become a bit detached from our European influence sometimes, but we are a country mostly of immigrants really, many early on from Europe!

  15. Brianna @ The Casual Travelist
    | Reply

    The cathedral, along with much of Quebec, transports me right to Europe. I love the intricate details in the ceiling and the stained glass.

  16. It’s amazing how the church has been rebuilt twice and is still so grand.

  17. Bianca @ItsAllBee
    | Reply

    Great pictures. If there is one thing I love about churches its the stained glass windows. They always have a story of their own to tell.

  18. Jessica @She Dreams of Travel
    | Reply

    I had no idea that there was a Notre Dame Cathedral in Quebec let alone that it was so beautiful! Your photographs are absolutely gorgeous. So many times I find myself thinking that old, beautiful buildings like this one can only be found in Europe, but it’s nice to see that we have some on this side of the pond too. I also must commend you guys for being so open minded in crossing the Holy Door. Not everyone would have taken that opportunity for what it was which is a moment to reflect and meditate on life no matter what you may or may not believe. So kudos to you lovely people 🙂 It may not be a Jubilee year by the time I make a visit to Quebec, but when I do make it there, I will be sure to check out the Notre Dame!

    • Thank you so much, Jessica! We were thankful to have the opportunity to cross the Holy Door. I hope you get the chance to as well, whether it be in Quebec or elsewhere!

  19. thewholeworldis...
    | Reply

    The interior is stunning although the TV screens look a bit out of place!

  20. Alli Blair
    | Reply

    I didn’t make it here when I was in Quebec City 🙁 The inside is so regal! That sounds really neat to have most of the place by yourselves, especially at nighttime!

  21. Baskets Life Travel
    | Reply

    Wow this church is beautiful – I am surprised how bright it is so often the chruches are old and scary looking. This one is really gorgeous. I am not very religious either – but I love to visit churches around the world – I am just impresed by the sculptures and art and quite often the size. This looks like a great place – not sure about those Tv’s those they look a little funny!

  22. Jessica Janoski
    | Reply

    What a beautiful and gigantic cathedral! I would love to visit someday and take gorgeous photos such as yours! It’s nice to have places like that to yourself, I find that I don’t rush through when I’m alone or close to it. Cheers!

  23. Green Global Travel
    | Reply

    beautiful highlighting of the architecture!

  24. Molly @ Molly On the Move
    | Reply

    I remember walking past Notre Dame when I was in Quebec, but unfortunately I didn’t get the time to full-on tour it…y’all are making me wish I had! Quebec is such a picturesque city 🙂
    Molly @ Molly On the Move recently posted…Hello, (Tallulah) Gorge-ous.My Profile

  25. Hung Thai
    | Reply

    Beautiful pictures! The cathedral is so grand and classical. No need to fly to Europe to experience such grandeur 🙂
    Hung Thai recently posted…Easy hike, amazing rewards – off the beaten path in Vancouver, BCMy Profile

  26. northierthanthou
    | Reply

    Amazing images. That golden interior is spectacular.
    northierthanthou recently posted…The Fog of HedgesMy Profile

  27. Megan Eileen
    | Reply

    The photos look great! What are you guys shooting them on? Would love if you checked out my blog at

  28. Alex S
    | Reply

    What a beautiful cathedral. Thank you for sharing those amazing images. I always thought San Miguel Mission in Sante Fe, New Mexico was the oldest but after doing a bit of research I found out it is the oldest Church STRUCTURE north of Mexico.

  29. […] we aren’t religious, we stopped to admire the architecture and decor of the Notre Dame de Quebec. We also had the rare opportunity to pass through the Holy Door. While we didn’t discover it […]

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