Devoted Hearts and Nimble Fingers
On August 1, 1639, three Ursuline nuns, including Marie de l'Incarnation, arrived in Quebec to found the first North American school for girls. This was the start of a remarkable educational labour of love, and one that has lasted for 375 years! The Musée des Ursulines de Québec tells this touching story through its magnificent spaces and collections.
While the Ursulines are renowned for their schools, not many people know that their institution was also the first centre of women’s art in New France, and that the nuns were exceptionally skilled embroiderers. Embroider like an Ursuline exhibition features some stunning liturgical robes and altar cloths created by their nimble fingers. The intricate pieces and skills are sure to impress even visitors who have never picked up an embroidery needle.
The convent itself, and the property on which it stands, are full of fabulous secrets recounting centuries of history. Step by step, the Recollections of a House exhibition describes the construction and evolution of the buildings in this convent complex, one of the finest in North America, and its impressive historic artifacts, some of them actually unearthed right here.
“Enrol” in the Young Ladies’ Academy and experience the life of a boarder with the Quebec City Ursuline community in the 19th century, from your welcome by the sisters to the day you leave the convent, diploma in hand! Learn how they spent their days behind the mysterious walls of the cloister, and the training given to these young ladies by the nuns – one of the cornerstones of women’s history in Quebec.
At 10 rue Donnacona, you can immerse yourself, free of charge, in literary heritage stretching from the 18th to the 20th centuries: books on religion, science and history, travel journals, novels and more. Touch them, read them and soak up the cosy atmosphere in the reading corner reminiscent of the boarding school’s libraries.
A welcoming garden
Right in the heart of Old Quebec City, the vast convent garden was long reserved for the community. Today it is accessible during the summer by reservation, and continues to be a favourite place for strolling and meditation, against the backdrop of the four-century old architecture of the convent complex.