Religion played a central role in the seventeenth-century founding of New France. The conversion of indigenous people and the spread of the Catholic faith in North America were key to the evolution of first French, then British, colony now known as Quebec City. Today, numerous historic buildings and churches testify to the city’s religious heritage. Many of the city’s churches have been designated as historic monuments, making them rich sources of historical information and a great place to spend a few hours. Art and antique buffs will love the famous paintings, intricately carved furniture, and majestic organs, while history and architecture lovers will relish discovering secrets about the construction of these majestic buildings. For the faithful, attending Mass in any one of the following churches and basilicas becomes especially memorable at Christmas and Easter.
Overlooking historic Place Royale, where Quebec City was founded in 1608, this 300-year-old church has had a tumultuous history. Used as a place of refuge during major conquest battles, it was destroyed by fire in 1759 and has been restored numerous times over the centuries. Must see: On either side of the main altar, frescos painted in 1888 retrace the history of the church as well as that of the city.
Notre-Dame de Québec Basilica-Cathedral
Located in the heart of the Old City, this 360-year-old basilica-cathedral stands on the site of the chapel constructed by Samuel de Champlain, the founder of Quebec City. Essential viewing includes the crypt, where four governors of New France are buried; the sanctuary, carefully constructed according to seventeenth-century plans; intricate stained-glass windows; and three Casavant organs.
The Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré Basilica is located about 20 miles out of Quebec City and attracts over a million and a half visitors every year. Built on the site where a crippled man is believed to have been healed after placing three stones in the foundation of the church, the 350-year-old Shrine is one of the oldest pilgrimage sites in North America. The basilica’s decoration alone, which includes 240 stained glass windows, justifies the trip.
Cathedral of the Holy Trinity
Seat of the Anglican Church in Quebec City, the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity was the first Anglican cathedral to be built outside of the British Isles. Sitting in the middle of a green oasis in the heart of the Old City, the church has an austere exterior and simple interior, inspired by British architecture. A set of eight change-ringing bells, built in London by the same foundry that cast Big Ben, is said to be the oldest in Canada.
Saint-Jean-Baptiste Roman Catholic Church
Following a tragic fire that largely destroyed the Saint-Jean-Baptiste neighborhood in 1881, this superb church was built and quickly restored the area to life. Several architectural and decorative details make this church worth a visit, including intricate stained-glass work, marble furniture, paintings by Roman artist Cremonini, and a stately façade.