A Remarkable Story
Notre-Dame-de-Jacques-Cartier Church was originally a private chapel used by the laity to venerate the Blessed Virgin. Then an agreement saw the church open its doors to the faithful spilling over from the parish of Saint-Roch, before it became a parish church of its own in 1901. Today closed to services, the church with the lopsided steeple looks exactly the same inside as it did in 1889, boasting one of the city’s oldest interior decors.
A church unlike any other
The history of Notre-Dame-de-Jacques-Cartier is truly unique, as you might guess by the fact that a cultural and community group cooperative is now its sole occupant and user. Its lopsided steeple, built in 1875, is another of its many distinctive features.
A chapel in honour of the Blessed Virgin
In 1851 a group of men calling themselves the Congregation of Lower Town Québec Lay Men had a chapel built in devotion to the Virgin Mary. The architect in charge of the project, Raphaël Giroux, drew inspiration from the outside appearance of the Jesuit chapel on rue D’Auteuil in Upper Town.
The inside of the chapel was very plain, similar to Saint-Roch Church at the time—both were by the same architect. The chancel had an altarpiece in the form of a triumphal arch, and two imposing balcony galleries flanked the central nave.
An offshoot of Saint-Roch
With Saint-Roch’s population on the constant rise, the Congregation let its chapel be used for the spillover crowds from the parish church. The chapel “miraculously” escaped the Great Fire of 1866, the second time such a disaster had razed much of the surrounding neighbourhood.
In the following years, population growth in Saint-Roch was so strong that the chapel had to be enlarged. Work on the outside went smoothly, but it took 14 more years for the interior to be finished. The interior has remained intact since work was completed in 1889 and is one of the oldest and most authentic church interiors in Québec City today.
A new parish
The Parish of Saint-Roch was split in two at the turn of the 20th century, with the congregation’s chapel becoming the church of the new parish of Notre-Dame-de-Jacques-Cartier. Its name was a sign of the interest people had in the man who “discovered” Canada, along with other heroes from the nation’s past.
The lopsided steeple
In 1940 the much-talked-about lopsided steeple—long a source of concern for parishioners—was at last reinforced. Workers used the opportunity to freshen up the paintwork inside and to install new pews. Ever since, the steeple and the church’s nickname have remained firmly in place.
A focal point for the community
Recent years had seen a steady decline in the number of churchgoers at Notre-Dame-de-Jacques-Cartier. In 1998, one century after being split off from Saint-Roch, the parish was reattached. Then in late 2012, the church was deconsecrated. Today cultural organizations and community groups rent offices there, continuing to support the community in a role once filled by the clergy.
This beautiful space was the centre of local religious life for years. Today, thanks to Espace Hypérion, it contributes to Saint-Roch’s cultural life.