Notre-Dame-des-Victoires, Quebec’s Oldest Stone Church
Built in Quebec City’s Place Royale in 1688, L’eglise Notre-Dame-des-Victoires survived burning and threats of demolition, and is now an historic monument.
Revering their sacred religious principles, the early European settlers made sure their new Canadian home sites included places for worship. One of the oldest French stone churches still
standing is L’eglise Nôtre-Dame-des-Victoires in Quebec City.
Church of Champlain’s Habitation
On land granted by the Governor and Administrator of New France, Bishop Francois de Laval and the residents of Samuel de Champlain’s Habitation built the first L’eglise Nôtre-Dame-des-Victoires at Place-Royal in 1688. (Now Quebec City, the Habitation was first settled in 1608.) Designed by Claude Baillif, the plans included a small chapel for worship and a rectory overlooking the market. Initially named “Enfant-Jesus”, the stone church was then renamed “Nôtre-Dame-de-la-Victoire” (Our Lady of the Victory) in 1690, said Luc Noppen and Lucy K. Morisset of the University of Quebec’s coverage of organ music in Quebec. The building then received the title of “L’eglise Nôtre-Dame-des-Victoires”, Our Lady of Victories, in 1711 after the shipwrecking of British Admiral Hovender Walker’s attacking fleet in the St. Lawrence River.
In the ten years from 1723 to 1733, the church was enlarged with the construction of the St. Genevieve Chapel, a nave, portal and vestry, all drawn by architect Jean Maillou. The vestry was rebuilt in 1873 and is still in use today, according to Noppen and Morisset.
Church Burned and Rebuilt Mid-1700s
Disaster struck in 1759 when L’eglise Nôtre-Dame-des-Victoires was badly burned during the historic siege of Quebec when the French were overpowered by the British. The church building was reconstructed over the next seven years. Forty years later, it underwent the first of several more restorations. Threatened with demolition in the early 1800s, the citizens wanted to remove the church to enlarge the market area, but the church held strong. In 1858, construction began on a new steeple and exterior improvements.
The interior of L’eglise Nôtre-Dame-des-Victoires was enhanced with beautiful, classic murals and statues, much of the works produced by the students of Thomas Baillairgé. (Baillairgé was a prominent Quebec artist, wood carver and architect of the early to mid-1800s. He trained a number of students in the skills of his craft.) The striking paintings are on both sides of the altars; frescoes featuring the history of the city and the church were added in 1888, created by Jean-M. Tardivel.
Nôtre-Dame-des-Victoires an Historic Monument
One of Canada’s oldest standing churches, the elegant Catholic church was also deemed an historic monument in 1929 by Quebec’s Historic Monuments Commission. The honour confirmed the building’s status as the oldest stone church in the province. Located in the old section of the city at 32, Rue sous le Fort, Quebec City, Quebec, L’eglise Nôtre-Dame-des-Victoires is open for tours from May to October. (Covid-19 may affect tour opportunities.)
Visit the website of L’eglise Nôtre-Dame-des-Victoires to view the church and other beautiful buildings in historic Quebec.
This article first appeared in June 2010. Copyright Susanna McLeod