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Notre Dame Cathedral

Notre Dame Cathedral

La cathédrale Notre-Dame et la Place du marché, Québec

Credit: Library and Archives Canada, accession number C-018541 James Duncan, Collection Illustrated books, albums and scrapbooks

In 1989, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada (HSMBC) recognized Notre Dame Cathedral as a place of national historic significance for its historical and architectural values. These values stem from its association with the history of New France, as well as its influence on ecclesiastical architecture and the interior decoration of churches of later date.
A chapel was first built on the site in 1633 and replaced by a church in 1647. Thus started a turbulent history marked by fires, remodelling and enlargement. One feature remains constant: the building has been part of the religious life of Québec City and French America from French colonial times to the present.

In 1664, the church officially became the parish church of Québec City. Ten years later it became the first and only cathedral in New France when François de Laval (recognized by the HSMBC in 1972) was named bishop of the diocese of Quebec, which covered all of North America. Construction work was undertaken in 1684–89 and 1744–48, in the latter case following the plans of Chaussegros de Léry (recognized in 2006). Destroyed in the siege of 1759, the cathedral was rebuilt between 1768 and 1771.

It was in the 19th century that the building assumed its present appearance. Work on the interior decoration started in 1786 under the direction of Jean Baillairgé and his son François; it continued until 1822. Their legacy to later generations included a retable, bishop’s throne and high altar. In 1843 François’ son Thomas proposed a new facade in a sophisticated neoclassical style. However, because the foundations were not strong enough, the spire could not be completed. A fire gutted the structure in 1922; it was rebuilt in its original form between 1923 and 1925.