400, rue Saint-Paul Est (East)
On St-Paul Street, around Bonsecours Street, are three (3) historical memorial public influences to know about: The Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel, the museum of Marguerite Bourgeoys and the Bonsecours Market.
First the chapel. this modest religious building is one of the oldest buildings in Montreal. The golden Virgin Statue holding an open arm child is simple but yet rich in meaning at the same time. From my perceptive, it symbolizes that we are welcomed and accepted in this place. On the other side of the old port, a more dominant angel sits on the roof to welcome sailors home. It was gifted to the church in 1849.
Siting very close to the Saint-Laurent River, as the port became busier, the chapel became very popular among the sailors that paid tribute to Notre-Dame-of-Bon-Secours for their safety. The Sailor’s Church interior pays homage to its title with miniature ships suspended from the ceiling.
The first church or chapel of Ville-Marie was opened in 1675 after 20 years of persuasion. The first teacher in Montreal, originally from France, Marguerite Bourgeoys convinced the leaders of the time to build a religious building for the community. From the beginning, the chapel is named Notre-Dame-du-Bon-Secours (Your Lady of Good Help). Canonized in 1982, Sainte Marguerite Bourgeoys is the first woman to have the honor in Canada. Her remains lie in the Chapel since 2005.
She has done a lot for the community, including opening schools, teaching, welcoming the Kings Wards (Maison St-Gabriel) and had good social connections with the First Nations. She was loved and respected. Along with Paul de Maisonneuve and Jeanne Mance, she was part of the beginning of the New France.
During one of her trips to France, in 1672, she returned with a wooden statue that is still part of the current chapel. Luckily and miraculously the statuette survived the major fire of 1754. A fire was so devastating that they had to completely rebuild the religious site and they choose to do so on-top of the original base. The current chapel dates back to 1771.
The Marguerite Bourgeoys museum is next to the Chapel and it provides information on her work and offers a visit to the crypt where you can see the first walls and archeological findings, including artifacts from the First Nation.
Located on St-Paul Street, this is a good place to find the few still existing cobblestone streets in old Montreal.
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