Ursuline Monastery

Ursuline monastery in Québec City was founded by the Ursulines religious order in 1642. The monastery housed New France and North America’s first school for young girls. Despite suffering damages during the Siege of Quebec, the monastery still stands as one of the oldest 17th century buildings in Canada. Today, it is home to an elementary school for boys and girls. The monastery is considered a heritage building since 2011.

Ursuline monastery in Québec City was founded by the Ursulines religious order in 1642. The monastery housed New France and North America’s first school for young girls. Despite suffering damages during the Siege of Quebec, the monastery still stands as one of the oldest 17th century buildings in Canada. Today, it is home to an elementary school for boys and girls. The monastery is considered a heritage building since 2011.


Ursuline Monastery (Overview)
Ursuline Monastery, Québec City.
(courtesy Luc Noppen)

History

The Ursulines religious order, under the leadership of Marie de l'Incarnation, occupied the monastery’s site in 1642. They did so after previously establishing a convent in the lower town in 1639. A fire completely ravaged the monastery in 1650, but the sisters rebuilt it using the original foundations.

Despite a second fire in 1685, the Ursuline sisters gradually expanded the monastery which was dedicated to the education of young girls.

Ursuline Convent
The first Ursuline Convent was built in 1642. This retrospective view was painted by Joseph Légaré.
(courtesy Ursuline Convent)

During the Siege of Québec in 1759, the monastery was partially destroyed by British artillery. After the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, Louis-Joseph de Montcalm — who had been mortally wounded during the battle — was buried in a bomb crater within the monastery.

After the Conquest, the Ursulines continued their task of educating young girls. In 1857, a normal school was established. In the 20th century, the monastery expanded its teaching mission. It would eventually become a high school. Today, it houses an elementary school.

Architecture

The St. Augustin and Ste. Famille sections as well as the kitchen wings are the largest surviving pre–1700 structures in Canada. They have features characteristic of the early colonial period. These include steep medieval roofs with two rows of dormers, massive chimneys and rubble masonry protected by stucco or crépi. They also have segmentally arched windows with small-paned casements.

L'Ange à la trompette
L'Ange à la trompette, by Noel Levasseur, in the historical chapel of the Ursulines of Québec, beginning of the 18th century.
(courtesy Ursuline Chapel, Québec)