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.
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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 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.
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.
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.
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