Originally built in 1647, Notre-Dame de Québec Basilica-Cathedral became the first parish church of the colony of New France in 1664. 350 years later, the church is still the center of Roman Catholic life in Québec City and currently near the end of a 350th anniversary Jubilee celebration. First begun on December 8, 2013, the honorary festivities end on December 28, 2014, so travelers interested in seeing the celebratory activities should make their way to Québec City immediately.
As part of the Jubilee, Notre-Dame de Québec visitors can step through the first Holy Door outside of Europe, which was presented to the cathedral from the Holy See especially for the occasion. The Holy Door is a “symbol of communion with the universal Church,” and will be closed on December 28 until the next Holy Year of the Roman Catholic Church in 2025. (The world’s other Holy Doors are in Rome; Ars-sur-Formans, France, and Santiago de Compostela, Spain.) Other remaining Jubilee activities include a special concert by the Quebec Symphony Orchestra on Friday, November 21 and official closing ceremony of the Jubilee on the Feast of the Holy Family.
Separate from the Jubilee, the cathedral remains a stunning work of architectural beauty and historical artifact worth visiting at any time. Overlooking the Place de l’Hôtel de Ville, Notre-Dame de Québec sits majestically on the site of the Church of Notre-Dame-de-la-Paix. Recognized as a National Historic Site of Canada in 1989, the cathedral has unsurprisingly undergone a number of reconstructions since first being erected, including in 1766-1771 after the Siège of Québec and in 1922, when the cathedral was destroyed by a fire. Architects on the church include Gaspard-Joseph Chaussegros de Léry, Jean Baillairgé (who designed the bell tower) and Thomas Baillairgé (who designed the neoclassical façade). Details of note include: the geometric massing under the copper-clad roof; two towers of different architectural design; the stained-glass windows representing scenes of the Virgin Mary and saints; and the classical theme of the interior decoration, design and furnishings.
Be sure to check back later this week for more on Quebec City activities.