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Fontaine de Tourny is such an elegant fit with the prestigious surroundings on Québec City’s Parliament Hill that it seems to have been installed at the same time and in the same style as the parliament buildings themselves. But some 5,000 kilometres once separated the parliament from the fountain. And the fountain’s surprising history even includes a chapter from Scotland.
Mathurin Moreau, a sculptor in the French city of Dijon, designed the fountain in 1853. The Val d’Osne art foundry then cast six copies in cast iron, one of which was displayed at the Paris World’s Fair in 1855. The fountain was awarded a medal of excellence, and the mayor of Bordeaux fell under its spell when visiting the fair. He acquired two copies and had them installed at either end of an avenue known as the Allées de Tourny in the centre of his city.
A century later in 1960, both fountains were dismantled to make way for an underground parking lot, then sold by weight. One found a new life in Soulac-sur-Mer in the same region, but the other ended up in pieces at an antiques dealer in Saint-Ouen near Paris. It was a sad dry spell for a fountain dedicated to the world of water.
The four children on the upper level celebrating fishing and seafaring, the characters beside the main pool representing the river gods of Ancient Greece and the water nymphs known as Naiads, and the fountain’s fish, frogs, shellfish, and aquatic plants were all left high and dry as the fountain began to deteriorate, deprived of the one thing it needed most: water.
In the early 2000s, Québec City businessman Peter Simons visited the antique dealer and also fell in love with the fountain. It was, however, in such poor condition when he purchased it that the services of a Parisian specialist in metal sculpture were required to restore it. Some parts had been damaged or lost and had to be remade from scratch. Once the fountain had been completely restored, Peter Simons had it shipped to its new home in Québec City.
In celebration of the city’s 400th anniversary in 2008, he presented Québec City with the extravagant gift, a symbol of the strong ties that had bound his originally Scottish family to Québec for five generations.
His generosity was greeted with enthusiasm by the City of Québec, the only question being where best to install the magnificent fountain. La Maison Simons department store, Québec’s National Assembly, and the city decided to install it in front of the parliament building in the traffic circle on Avenue Honoré-Mercier, where its 19th-century charm and sculpted ornaments would go perfectly with the building from the same period.
It took Commission de la capitale nationale and the City of Québec two years to prepare the site. Specialists installed systems to pump and filter the water. The fountain’s surroundings were landscaped, and a lighting system was installed to illuminate the city’s new jewel at night. The fountain was then assembled on site.
Fontaine de Tourny was officially connected to the water supply and inaugurated on July 3, 2007, the anniversary of the day the city was founded and one year before it turned 400. Peter Simons, the mayor of Québec City, various dignitaries, and a few hundred others attended the event. Author Marie Laberge read aloud a text she had written in memory of the ties that have bound Québec and France for four centuries, words engraved on the plaque fixed to the base of the fountain: “Here, Québec stands tall, loyal and proud, forever courageous, determined to never die”… Just like the fountain itself.
The people of Québec City adopted the monument in an instant. From that day on, Fontaine de Tourny has continued to turn heads, while tourists still rush to admire it. In no time at all, it has become one of the city’s must-see landmarks.
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