The oldest church in the entire country, Quebec’s Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame is a historic site located in the heart of Old Quebec and a local landmark.
The Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame in Quebec
The Notre-Dame in Quebec is one of the most historic buildings in all of Canada. It’s nearly 400 years old and has served as the province’s top cathedral for the Catholic Church that entire time.
The Notre-Dame is located at 16 Rue De Buade in Old Quebec. It’s less than a block away from City Hall and the Seminary of Quebec. The cathedral remains a very important religious site to this day and contains much to explore for both Christians and everyone else.
Visiting the Cathedral
For those who want to take part in a service at the Notre-Dame, there are Masses three days a week. On Tuesdays and Thursdays there is Mass at 12:10 pm. On Sundays there is Mass at 9:30 am.
Outside of those services, the cathedral is open to the public on Sunday from noon to 4:00 pm. It used to be open a couple other days of the week as well but it’s been scaled back as of January, 2022.
The exterior of the building is made of stone and copper, with a pair of asymmetrical towers rising above the main hall. It’s interesting, but the interior of the cathedral overshadows it with how stunning it is. A large amount of gold leaf covers the inside making it shine and feel quite opulent.
Along with the main chapel, the Notre-Dame contains a crypt and a small museum. Nearly a thousand people are buried in the depths of the building, including four governors of New France and multiple bishops. The museum requires a small admission fee of around $4 to visit and is only open in the summer.
If you want to learn as much as you can about the site you can take a guided tour. The tours are around an hour long and must be booked in advance.
The Holy Door
Perhaps the most special feature of the Notre-Dame is the Holy Door. Installed in 2013 as part of the 350th anniversary of the Notre-Dame de Quebec parish, it’s one of only four Holy Doors in the world outside of Rome.
The Holy Door is an actual door, in the Chapel of the Sacred Heart. It has tremendous spiritual significance, representing the inner journey one faces during their life.
Holy Doors remain closed the vast majority of the time and are only opened during Jubilees (Holy Years). Jubilees are usually only once every 25 years although the Pope can announce a new Jubilee themselves if they choose to do so. The next Jubilee is in 2025.
When the Holy Door is open everyone can walk through it, regardless of their religion. When closed, those who visit the door are able to touch it and ponder on their experience there.
While most popular during Jubilees, people visit the Notre-Dame on pilgrimages year-round. There is a designated Pilgrims Garden pathway at the cathedral for this purpose. During the summer there is also a Holy Door Garden where visitors can pray.
Groups of pilgrims can make an advance reservation for their visit. Doing so provides support in the form of someone from the Notre-Dame making reservations for stops at multiple other sites for you as well as proposing a schedule for your trip. As well, you will receive a guide for each of these stops.
History of the Notre-Dame
The first chapel in the city was built on this site in 1633 by Samuel de Champlain. The first iteration of the current cathedral was built in 1647 on the same site. Originally known as Notre-Dame-de-la-Paix, it officially became a cathedral in 1674.
The establishment of the Archdiocese of Quebec made it the first such Catholic see outside of Mexico in the New World. The Notre-Dame was thus the first-ever Catholic cathedral north of Mexico.
Pope Pius IX declared the church a minor basilica in 1874. The building had expanded many times between then and its founding, and continued to expand in the coming years.
The Notre-Dame today is not the same building it was back in the 17th century. That is because the cathedral has been destroyed by fire not once, but twice in its history.
The first fire was in 1759 during the British attack on the city in the Seven Years’ War. It took over a decade for it to be fully rebuilt, as faithful as possible to the original design.
The second fire was in 1922 and sadly destroyed much of the interior that had just been restored. Construction to rebuild began immediately but the damage was great and some of the designs and artifacts from inside were lost forever.
The Notre-Dame was named a Canadian National Historic Site in 1989. The Holy Door was installed in 2013, the most recent major addition to the cathedral.
For more information visit the Notre-Dame de Quebec Basilica-Cathedral website.
Other articles that might be of interest include the following: