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Saint-Sulpice Seminary and its Garden National Historic Site of Canada

16 Notre Dame Street West, Montréal, Quebec, Canada

Formally Recognized: 2005/08/03

Detailed view of Saint-Sulpice Seminary, showing the main door and the clock with mounted bells.; Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada.
Detailed view
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Other Name(s)

Saint-Sulpice Seminary and its Garden National Historic Site of Canada
Saint-Sulpice Seminary and its Garden
Séminaire de Saint-Sulpice et son jardin
Sulpician Seminary Garden
Jardins du séminaire des Sulpiciens
The Old Sulpician Seminary
Vieux séminaire des Sulpiciens

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1684/01/01 to 1687/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2010/06/23

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

Saint-Sulpice Seminary and its Garden National Historic Site of Canada is a religious seminary and adjoining garden located on rue Notre-Dame Ouest in the heart of Old Montréal. The site consists of a large, U-shaped stone seminary building of austere appearance, enclosing formal, private gardens and a small courtyard. The stone building is an impressive example of 17th-century classical architecture built during the French Regime. Rectangular in plan, the convent gardens are characterized by symmetry, geometrically arranged subdivisions and intersecting cross-paths that lead to a central focal point. The complex is shielded from rue Notre Dame by a stone wall pierced by the main entrance. Official recognition refers to the seminary building with its various wings, the courtyard and stone wall and the convent garden in the Ville-Marie sector of Montréal.

Heritage Value

Saint-Sulpice Seminary and its Garden was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1980 (expanded in 2004) because;
- of the quality of the architecture, which is a rare and remarkable example of French Regime classicism;
- of the remarkable integrity of the French Regime convent garden, which served as a means of subsistence, and for meditation and leisure;
- of the seminary’s long association with the Messieurs of Saint-Sulpice and its exemplary representation of this religious community’s oeuvre and of the beginnings of Montréal and of the colony of New France.

The heritage value of Saint-Sulpice Seminary and its Garden resides in its historical associations and in its architectural integrity as an example of French Regime classicism. Since 1687, the seminary has served as the residence and administrative centre of the Messieurs of Saint-Sulpice who were the seigneurs of the Island of Montréal until the end of the seigneurial regime. The building was inspired by 17th-century classical French architecture, and its garden originally conformed closely to the medieval monastic garden. With the colonization of New France in the 17th century, this European garden tradition was carried to North America by religious orders such as the Jesuits and Sulpicians. The garden survives in its original location with its form virtually intact. The garden’s relationship to the walls of the surrounding institution reflects the inward looking, self-reliant nature of these protected communities and their calm, spiritual quality. The ornamentation of the design and the interplay of geometry within this small structured landscape are reflective of 17th-century tastes.

Sources: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, November 1975; June 2004.

Character-Defining Elements

The key elements relating to the heritage value of the site include:
- its location on rue Notre-Dame Ouest in the heart of Old Montréal;
- the U-shaped, three-storey massing of the seminary set under gable and hip roofs;
- the central section, flanked by two towers surmounted by pavilion roofs;
- the two wings of slightly differing design, which produces an asymmetrical appearance;
- the stone construction and irregular fieldstone exterior walls;
- the formal composition of the exterior in the French classical style, most apparent in the central portion and the west wing;
- the main door in the central section with a dressed stone portal of Ionic pilasters and an entablature with the date “1740” carved into it;
- the neoclassical style of the east wing;
- the small front courtyard and the two separate gates, one surmounted by a pediment bearing the order’s coat of arms;
- the clock with mounted bells, and the windows framed by dressed stone;
- the original placement, design and materials of doors and windows;
- the interior configuration and finishes;
- the gardens, rectangular in plan, symmetrical with geometrically arranged subdivisions and intersecting cross-paths that lead to a central focal point;
- surviving original plant material and evidence of planting patterns;
- the relationship between the site and the neighbouring Notre-Dame Roman Catholic Church / Basilica National Historic Site of Canada.

Recognition

Jurisdiction

Federal

Recognition Authority

Government of Canada

Recognition Statute

Historic Sites and Monuments Act

Recognition Type

National Historic Site of Canada

Recognition Date

2005/08/03

Historical Information

Significant Date(s)

1704/01/01 to 1704/01/01
1711/01/01 to 1714/01/01
1850/01/01 to 1854/01/01
1910/01/01 to 1910/01/01

Theme - Category and Type

Building Social and Community Life
Religious Institutions
Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
Architecture and Design

Function - Category and Type

Current

Religion, Ritual and Funeral
Religious Facility or Place of Worship

Historic

Leisure
Park

Architect / Designer

François Vachon de Belmont

Builder

n/a

Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

National Historic Sites Directorate, Documentation Centre, 5th Floor, Room 89, 25 Eddy Street, Gatineau, Quebec

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier

660

Status

Published

Related Places

n/a

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