Notre-Dame Roman Catholic Cathedral
Cathédrale Catholique Notre-Dame
Notre-Dame Roman Catholic Cathedral National Historic Site of Canada
Links and documents
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
Notre-Dame Roman Catholic Cathedral National Historic Site of Canada stands amongst other historic institutional buildings in the heart of the historic district of Old Québec, Quebec. Overlooking the Place de l’Hôtel de Ville this handsome stone building, set under a copper roof, features a richly detailed Neoclassical facade flanked by two towers of different age and design. Situated on the site of the Church of Notre-Dame-de-la-Paix, built in 1647, the present cathedral is the product of many reconstructions, the last in 1922, which restored it to its mid-19th century appearance. Official recognition refers to the footprint of the building at the time of designation.
Notre-Dame Roman Catholic Cathedral was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1989 because:
- of its long and close associations with the history of New France;
- its influence on subsequent ecclesiastical architecture and interior decoration in Québec.
First built during the French Regime in 1647 as a stone church on behalf of François de Montmorency Laval, Notre-Dame Roman Catholic Cathedral became the first parish church of the colony of New France in 1664. Notre-Dame has always been at the centre of Roman Catholic life in Québec. The only parish church until 1829, it served all levels of society. When Laval became the first Bishop of Quebec in 1674, the building was “entrenched” as a cathedral and was then enlarged. Destroyed during the Siège of Québec in 1759, the cathedral was reconstructed from 1766 to 1771 according to plans by Gaspard-Joseph Chaussegros de Léry from 1743. The exception was the bell-tower designed by Jean Baillairgé who also supervised the works. In 1843-1844 architect Thomas Baillairgé designed the remarkable neoclassical façade. The innovative interior, which was to be influential in church architecture within Québec, was designed by François Baillairgé. Ravaged by fire in 1922, the shell of the building was rebuilt to its mid-19th century monumental appearance. Several well-known architects contributed to the exterior and interior of Notre-Dame. Enlarged and altered at different times during its history, the building was influential in Québec church architecture and remains an important focus of Roman Catholic life in the city.
Sources: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, 1989.
Key elements that contribute to the heritage character of the site include:
- its prominent location in the historic district of Old Québec on Place de l’Hôtel de Ville;
- the large, geometric massing set under a copper-clad gabled roof;
- the two towers, of different design that are set back from the facade, including the 18th century southern tower with copper-clad, double-storied lantern and a reinforced metal core, and the unfinished 19th-century tower;
- the church’s structural system including its exterior stone construction;
- the sculptural quality of the richly detailed Neoclassical facade, including the projecting frontispiece with pediment, the blind arcades, blind panelling, round-headed and oval openings, the mouldings, banded rustication, cornices, entablatures and pilasters;
- the interior plan, including the wide central nave with unobstructed views towards the altar, crowned by a baldaquin, and the wide arches separating the side aisles from the nave;
- the original placement, design and materials of doors and windows, including the stained-glass windows representing scenes of the Virgin Mary and saints;
- the classical theme of the interior, the disposition of parts and interior decoration, influenced by many architects including those that follow the plan of François Baillairgé;
- the interior’s design, décor and sympathetic furnishings, including those of the sanctuary redone in 1922 to the plans of François Baillairgé, the baldaquin, the Episcopal canopy and the main altar, the bishop’s throne, the sanctuary lamp, the stained-glass windows created by the Meyer House in Munich and the Champigneulles House in Paris that represent scenes of the Virgin Mary and saints, the three Casavant organs, and the reredos in the St. Famille and St. Anne chapels;
- the site on which the cathedral stands, including the small forecourt enclosed by a wall surmounted by cast iron railings;
- the viewscapes between Place de l’Hôtel de Ville, the religious institutional complex, and the site.
Government of Canada
Historic Sites and Monuments Act
National Historic Site of Canada
1844/01/01 to 1844/01/01
1922/01/01 to 1923/01/01
Theme - Category and Type
- Building Social and Community Life
- Religious Institutions
Function - Category and Type
- Religion, Ritual and Funeral
- Religious Facility or Place of Worship
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
National Historic Sites Directorate, Documentation Centre, 5th Floor, Room 89, 25 Eddy Street, Gatineau, Quebec
Cross-Reference to Collection