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The Maison Saint-Gabriel

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One of finest colonial-era houses in Montreal is the Maison Saint-Gabriel, found in the neighborhood of Pointe Saint-Charles. Purchased in 1662 by Marguerite Bourgeoys for her congregation of nuns, this farmhouse allowed the sisters to be self-sufficient, and provided a place where they could educate community children. In 1966, the house opened its doors as a historic site.

When it was acquired by the Congregation of Notre Dame, the Maison Saint-Gabriel was on the outskirts of the colonial town, then still known as Ville-Marie. Over the centuries, Montreal has grown exponentially, and swallowed up the farmland which once surrounded the house, turning Pointe Saint-Charles into another of its many densely-packed neighborhoods. But, when you step onto the property of the Maison Saint-Gabriel, it feels as though you’re stepping back into the past.

This illusion is encouraged by the maidens who are waiting to greet you at the gates. All of the employees of the Maison are dressed in colonial-era garb. During the summer, they’ll occasionally put on skits, or demonstrate some craft or aspect of life in the olden days.

Although the original farmhouse burnt down in 1693, the reconstruction dates from 1699, making it over three hundred years old. Seemingly little has changed throughout the years. The tour takes you into the kitchen of the house, the basement, the common room, the attic, and the men’s dormitory — although this was a congregation of nuns, some men lived on the farm to assist with the farming. We got to see some of the tools used by the nuns to harvest wheat and grains, and hear the 17th-century “telephone” they used to communicate with sisters on the island across the Saint Lawrence River: a long, trumpet-like megaphone.

We were fascinated by the story of the “Filles du Roi,” or, the “King’s Daughters.” In the earliest days of the colony, there were a disproportionate number of men, which was making it difficult for New France to populate its new territory. To alleviate this problem, King Louis XIV conscripted young peasant girls to cross the ocean and serve as marriage fodder for his struggling colony. Many of these girls provisionally moved into the Maison Saint-Gabriel, under the auspices of the nuns, until they were paired off with a man.

We really enjoyed our tour of the Maison Saint-Gabriel. It’s not just another history museum, but a living window into the past. The girl who gave our tour was as friendly as you’d expect a 17th-century maiden to be, and the condition of the house is stunning, considering its age. It’s definitely worth a trip to Pointe Saint-Charles to check it out.

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Maison Saint-Gabriel – Website

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Rights Reserved by Maison Saint-Gabriel, Museum and Historic Site / Photographed by: For 91 Days

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July 5, 2016 at 2:31 pm Comments (0)

The Notre Dame de Bon Secours

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Known as the “Sailors’ Church,” the Notre Dame de Bon Secours is one of the oldest churches in Montreal, originally built in 1771. Its founder was Marguerite Bourgeoy, a woman of deep faith whose life story is celebrated within a museum attached to the church.

Notre Dame de Bon Secours

Because of its location on the port, the Notre Dame de Bon Secours has long been a place of pilgrimage for sailors passing through Montreal. After having survived a particularly dangerous journey, many of these sailors would return with votive offerings in the form of model ships, twelve of which are now hanging from the church’s ceiling, suspended a few meters above the floor.

The church was the brainchild of St. Marguerite Bourgeoy, a deeply spiritual woman who had arrived in Montreal along with the first settlers. She’s known for founding one of the Catholicism’s first communities of uncloistered nuns. It was controversial at the time, but Marguerite reasoned that she and her sisters could better help their vulnerable settlement by actively engaging with it, instead of sequestering themselves away. She took it upon herself to educate both settlers and native children, and established the fledgling town’s first schools.

Notre Dame de Bon Secours

In honor of her remarkable life, she was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1983, becoming Canada’s first female saint. Her tomb can be found within the church, and it’s worth touring the small museum dedicated to her. In one room, Marguerite’s life has been reconstructed in a comic-book-fashion, with nearly a hundred small panoramas that detail everything from her birth in Troyes, France, to her transatlantic journey, her works in Canada, and her death, at peace among her followers and loved ones.

Notre Dame de Bon Secours

Even if you’re not interested in Marguerite Bourgeoy, there are other reasons to visit the museum. Not only can you see the crypt underneath the church, but a ticket also allows you up into the tower, from where there’s an outstanding view over the Old Port of Montreal. Also included in the ticket price is an audio guide, which brings certain details of the church to vivid life.

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Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours – Website

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April 26, 2016 at 1:55 pm Comments (0)
The Maison Saint-Gabriel One of finest colonial-era houses in Montreal is the Maison Saint-Gabriel, found in the neighborhood of Pointe Saint-Charles. Purchased in 1662 by Marguerite Bourgeoys for her congregation of nuns, this farmhouse allowed the sisters to be self-sufficient, and provided a place where they could educate community children. In 1966, the house opened its doors as a historic site.
For 91 Days