A Place of Reconciliation
The Hôpital-Général de Québec Cemetery is one of the city’s oldest. It was officially opened in 1728, and more than 4,000 people are buried here. It is also the final resting place of the greatest number of combatants—British, French, and First Nations alike—killed during the war that led to the conquest of New France. In 2001 the remains of General Montcalm were placed here alongside those of the men he commanded.
The pauper’s cemetery
Mgr. de Saint-Vallier created Hôpital général de Québec in 1692 to serve as a hospice for the poor. In 1721 the land surrounding the hospital was made into a parish and given the name Notre-Dame-des-Anges. It remains intact to this day as the smallest parish municipality in Québec. The parish cemetery also continues to occupy its original location.
According to the records of the Augustinians who ran the hospice, the cemetery’s first burial took place in 1728. Most of the people buried there were patients who died at the hospital, which is why it was known as the “pauper’s cemetery.” The Augustinians buried their deceased sisters in a separate cemetery.
United in death
During the fateful battles of the Plains of Abraham and Sainte-Foy in 1759 and 1760, French and British troops fought at Québec’s very doorstep.
Since the general hospital was located far from the fighting, it was used to care for the injured from both sides. The Augustinians provided the same assistance to British soldiers as to the French. They also treated Canadian militia and First Nations warriors. However, without access to antiseptics, proper medical procedures, or sufficient staff, the injuries of many combatants proved fatal.
The sisters buried the remains of Catholics in a common grave in the parish cemetery, and those of Protestants in another one just next to the cemetery.
By 1760 when the fighting ended, 1,058 French, British, and First Nations fighters had been buried at Hôpital général. The Augustinians carefully recorded the name, place of birth, and age of every one of them in the parish register, if that information was known.
The Seven Years’ War Memorial
In 2001 the Hôpital Général Cemetery underwent a large scale redesign and beautification. A memorial was erected in honour of the victims of the Seven Years’ War (also called the War of the Conquest). The centrepiece sculpture is entitled Traversée sans retour (Crossing of No Return). It refers to the soldiers who died in Québec City, far from their homes. The two characters featured in the sculpture symbolize warriors locked in a struggle against death.
Two spaces surrounded by small walls at the foot of the sculpture call to mind the communal graves in which the soldiers were buried. The names of the dead are carved into stone slabs. The other part, covered in vegetation, represents rebirth.
The Montcalm mausoleum
The project also involved raising a mausoleum in memory of Marquis de Montcalm, who led the French and Canadian forces until he was mortally wounded on the Plains of Abraham on September 13, 1759. In 2001 in a solemn ceremony, his remains were transferred from the chapel of the convent of the Ursulines of Québec where they had rested since his death to the Hôpital Général Cemetery to join the French soldiers who died at his side.
May they all rest in peace.