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Their
history

On August 1, 1639, three young women from France arrive in Quebec. At the request of the Duchess of Aiguillon, they establish a hospital to care for the aboriginal peoples and the few European settlers in New France. L’Hôtel-Dieu de Québec is the first hospital on the continent north of Mexico.

In founding 12 monastery-hospitals, the Augustinian Sisters not only laid the foundations of Quebec’s modern healthcare system, they also actively participated in it: as the owners and managers of hospitals, and as nurses and pharmacists. They also contributed significantly to the economic development of the regions where they settled and worked with great devotion.

French only

Their
values

The history of the Augustinian Sisters is a lesson in humanity. Through the courage and tenacity of these formerly cloistered, pioneering women, the community’s values permeated our society: compassion for human suffering, complete respect for the individual, and determination to offer healthcare on the cutting edge of science.

Present-day
realities

All of the hospitals founded by the Augustinian Sisters have been integrated into Quebec’s public healthcare system and are still in operation. Six of their monasteries have retained their original function. Six others have been converted to serve other purposes. The Order of the Augustinian Sisters of the Mercy of Jesus of Quebec once had nearly 800 members. Today, around one hundred sisters remain.

Faced with declining numbers and an aging community, the Augustinian Sisters decided to entrust the safeguard of their cultural heritage to the population by creating a Trust for that expressed public purpose.

French only

The 12
Monastery-hospitals

Find out
more

Hôtel-Dieu de Québec

Funding monastery active
  • First hospital on the continent north of Mexico
  • National Historic Site of Canada
  • Classified as a Heritage Site under Quebec's Cultural Heritage Act

Hôpital Général de Québec

Active monastery

Classified as a Heritage Site under Quebec's Cultural Heritage Act

Hôtel-Dieu du Sacré-Cœur de Québec

Active monastery

Hôtel-Dieu de Chicoutimi

Active monastery

Hôtel-Dieu de Lévis

Monastery integrated into the hospital in 1997

Hôtel-Dieu de Roberval

Active monastery

Hôtel-Dieu de Gaspé

Monastery converted into a seniors’ residence in 1995

Hôtel-Dieu de Saint-Georges-de-Beauce

Monastery integrated into the hospital in 1995

Hôtel-Dieu de Montmagny

Monastery converted into a seniors’ residence in 1993

Hôtel-Dieu d’Alma

Monastery integrated into the hospital in 1988

Hôtel-Dieu de Dolbeau

Active monastery

Hôtel-Dieu de Jonquière

Monastery integrated into the hospital in 1993
  • The collections
    and archives

    For 375 years, the Augustinian Sisters have been the guardians of unsuspected treasures. Their heritage includes a remarkable collection of 40 000 artefacts and one linear kilometer of old books. Several hundred rare and unique specimens are classified under Quebec’s Cultural Heritage Act.

    Find out
    more

    The Foundresses’
    Mortar

    and Pestle

    17th century

    The mortar and pestle were widely used by the Augustinian Sisters in the production of medicines. This brass instrument was reportedly brought from France by the three foundresses in 1639. In this case, the Mortar probably exhibits evidence of the fire that ravaged the Hôtel-Dieu de Québec in 1755.

    Collection: Hôtel-Dieu de Québec Monastery
    1/21
  • Foundation Agreement
    for l’Hôtel-Dieu de Québec

    1637

    The Duchess of Aiguillon, Cardinal Richelieu’s niece, secured 22 400 livres tournois in capital (a Tours pound was a pound of silver used as currency when Tours was the capital of France). The interest was to be used to support the Hôtel-Dieu monastery-hospital. According to the terms of the agreement, the sisters from Dieppe committed to daily prayer and to having their patients pray for the Duchess’ salvation.

    Archives: Hôtel-Dieu de Québec Monastery
    2/21
  • Pharmaceutical
    Jar

    18th century

    This jar, one of a set of ceramic apothecary jars from Old Rouen, was given to the Augustinian Sisters in 1787 by the Jesuit, Reverend Father Louis-Augustin de Glapion, after England ordered that the Jesuits’ assets in the country be confiscated. Previously, the King’s pharmacy had been tended by the Jesuits. Apothecaries, doctors and common people went there to stock up on creams, ointments, syrups and other remedies.

    Collection: Hôpital Général de Québec Monastery
    3/21
  • Concession Agreement
    from the Company
    of New France

    1637

    The Company of New France grants 12 acres of land to the Augustinian Sisters of Quebec. It is on this land that the first buildings of l’Hôtel-Dieu de Québec are constructed.

    Archives: Hôtel-Dieu de Québec Monastery
    4/21
  • Foundresses’
    Trunk

    17th century

    Marie Guenet de Saint-Ignace, Anne Le Cointre de Saint-Bernard and Marie Forestier de Saint-Bonaventure left Dieppe on May 4, 1639, carrying their valuables - including the contract for the founding of a hospital - in this trunk with three different locks. Each of the Sisters had in her possession one of the keys. The trunk - which was likely covered in skins to protect it from adverse weather conditions - probably also served as an altar during the crossing on board the Saint-Joseph.

    Collection: Hôtel-Dieu de Québec Monastery
    5/21
  • Letters Patent
    Signed by Louis XIII

    1639

    The King ratifies the intentions of the Duchess of Aiguillon, as well as the steps taken to found a hospital in New France. He authorizes the three sisters from Dieppe chosen for this mission to settle in Quebec, and charges them with managing l’Hôtel-Dieu de Québec.

    Archives: Hôtel-Dieu de Québec Monastery
    6/21
  • Inhaler

    19th century

    Made in London, England, in the latter part of the 19th century, this porcelain instrument was used to treat respiratory infections. Medicine was diluted in a bowl of hot water and the vapors were inhaled by the mouthpiece at the end of the tube.

    Collection: Hôtel-Dieu de Québec Monastery
    7/21
  • Letters of
    Amortization signed by Louis XIV and
    his Minister of Finances, Colbert

    1680

    In this document dated June 7, 1680, Louis XIV waives the amount that the Augustinian Sisters owe the crown for the land they possess.

    Archives: Hôtel-Dieu de Québec Monastery
    8/21
  • Anesthesia
    Mask

    1848

    In 1848, at the request of one of the hospital’s surgeons, the Augustinian Sisters designed this model of handcrafted mask. Made of tin and linen, the instrument was used with chloroform anesthesia. It covered the patient’s mouth and nose.

    Collection: Hôtel-Dieu de Québec Monastery
    9/21
  • Account of a trip
    to l’Île aux Oies

    1909

    The Augustinian Sisters of l’Hôtel-Dieu de Québec acquired the Seigneurie de la grande île aux Oies from Paul Dupuy in 1713 in order to produce hay, wool and butter to meet the needs of the hospital and the monastery. In 1909, they write an account of a recent stay on the island to Father A. Faucher, chaplain of l’Hôtel-Dieu de Québec.

    Archives: Hôtel-Dieu de Québec Monastery
    10/21
  • Reliquary Bust
    of Jean de Brébeuf

    1664

    Made in Paris by master goldsmith, Charles Poilly, this reliquary bust represents the Jesuit missionary and martyr, St. Jean de Brébeuf. The solid-silver bust sits atop the reliquary containing the right half of Brébeuf’s skull.

    Collection: Hôtel-Dieu de Québec Monastery
    11/21
  • Bill for Merchandise
    from France

    1755

    The Augustinian Sisters maintain close ties with several suppliers in France. Pierre Guillemot, a merchant from La Rochelle, describes goods sent over in 1755 on the ship La Reine des Anges. Medicines and the products used in making them constitute a large part of the list.

    Archives: Hôtel-Dieu de Québec Monastery
    12/21
  • Pill Dispenser

    19th century

    When making pills, the apothecary nun would first mix the medicinal paste in the mortar. She would then spread it over the indentations in the copper portion of the pill dispenser. The upper portion would then be closed and the paste would be left for 12 to 24 hours. Once hardened, it would be in the shape of long tubes that were cut to the desired thickness. If a round pill was needed, the apothecary nun would roll it in the palm of her hand.

    Collection: Hôpital Général de Québec Monastery
    13/21
  • Notes Found
    with Abandoned Children

    1801-1845

    In 1801, measures are adopted to prevent the abandonment of newborns and the Augustinian Sisters become agents of government policy. Notes pinned to babies’ diapers bear witness to parents’ distress and the hardships of life during the period. Of the 1375 children taken in by the sisters between 1801 and 1845, 736 died, 102 later returned to their families and 537 were adopted.

    The archival holdings on abandoned children are classified heritage documents under Quebec’s Cultural Heritage Act.

    Archives: Hôtel-Dieu de Québec Monastery
    14/21
  • Notes Found
    with Abandoned Children

    1801-1845

    In 1801, measures are adopted to prevent the abandonment of newborns and the Augustinian Sisters become agents of government policy. Notes pinned to babies’ diapers bear witness to parents’ distress and the hardships of life during the period. Of the 1375 children taken in by the sisters between 1801 and 1845, 736 died, 102 later returned to their families and 537 were adopted.

    The archival holdings on abandoned children are classified heritage documents under Quebec’s Cultural Heritage Act.

    Archives: Hôtel-Dieu de Québec Monastery
    15/21
  • Reliquary Cross

    18th and 19th centuries

    In 1718, the Augustinian Sisters of the Hôpital Général de Québec are the first to wear reliquary crosses, a privilege that is granted to them by Bishop de St-Vallier. The cross, which contained a relic of a Saint, was given to a sister during the ceremony of profession of perpetual vows. The tradition was later adopted by other monasteries, including the one in Chicoutimi which was founded by nuns from the Hôpital Général de Québec. When the Augustinian Sisters modified their habit in 1967, they adopted a simple silver cross instead of a reliquary cross.

    Collection: Hôtel-Dieu de Chicoutimi Monastery
    16/21
  • Donation of the Seigneury
    of Saint-Ignace by Robert Giffard

    1646

    At the age of twelve, Marie-Françoise Giffard entres religious life at l’Hôtel-Dieu de Québec and takes the name Marie de Saint-Ignace. She is the first Canadian Augustinian Sister. By way of a dowry for his daughter, Robert Giffard gives the Seigneury of Saint-Ignace to the Order.

    Archives: Hôtel-Dieu de Québec Monastery
    17/21
  • Furniture
    from Madame d’Ailleboust

    17th century

    These pieces of furniture in Louis XIII style were given to the Augustinian Sisters by Marie Barbe de Boullongne, a resident at the Hôtel-Dieu de Québec monastery after the death of her husband, Louis d’Ailleboust, the third Governor of New France. Madame d’Ailleboust died at l’Hôtel-Dieu de Québec in 1685.

    Collection: Hôtel-Dieu de Québec Monastery
    18/21
  • Register of Women
    Entering the Order, Taking the Habit and Making Vows

    1893-1994

    This register, similar to those used in other monasteries, is a record of the names of all the women who entered the Order at the Hôtel-Dieu de Lévis monastery. As they became postulants, then novices, and eventually took their perpetual vows, all the important dates were added to the register.

    Archives: Hôtel-Dieu de Lévis Monastery
    19/21
  • Mazarin Desk

    17th century

    When Louis XIII dies in 1643 and Louis XIV is still a child, the Regent Queen Anne of Austria appoints Mazarin Prime Minister. This cherry wood desk dates from this period. It is considered to be the ancestor of the Executive Desk because the drawers do not extend down to the floor.

    Collection: Hôtel-Dieu de Québec Monastery
    20/21
  • Vows
    of Mother Marie-Madeleine

    1923

    This signed certificate of perpetual vows of Sister Germaine Lecours, also known as Sister Saint Mary Magdalene, a professed sister of l'Hôtel-Dieu de Lévis, is dated May 3, 1923. It confirms her vow to devote herself to serving the sick all the days of her life. Sister Lecours will later become the foundress and first Superior of l'Hôtel-Dieu de Montmagny.

    Archives: Germaine Lecours, Hôtel-Dieu de Montmagny Monastery
    21/21
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