EXTRAORDINARY WINDOWS RESTORE MEANING OF THE MONASTERY
As part of the work on the Hôtel-Dieu de Québec monastery, the ten windows of the second floor ambulatory in the oldest wings will be restored to their original dimensions and charm. The building will once again display the characteristics that reveal its purpose, as well as the fundamental principles of its construction.
An ambulatory around an inner courtyard is one of the typical characteristics of monastic architecture in the west. Traditionally, the ambulatory is an open space that encircles the courtyard on the ground floor of the building.
Sometimes the ambulatory is situated on the second floor. Such is the case with the Hôtel-Dieu de Québec monastery. The architect François de Lajouë opted for this design having learned a lesson from the Récollets - who were unfamiliar with our winter climate and chose to have an open-air ambulatory constructed on the ground level.
Originally, the windows were bigger and similar in dimension to the arches of monastic ambulatories. In 1876, the Augustinian Sisters decided to have them reduced in size for energy efficiency. But in so doing, they also sacrificed an important aspect of their monastery: the inspiring luminosity that lit up their processions and their private devotions.
Continued use of the space
Since there is no trace of the model used at the time, the new windows will be designed according to the shape and proportions of the only window in the monastery that is similar to the ones to be reproduced.
Once in place, the new windows will clearly reveal the meditative use of this floor that, historically, was reserved for community life. The space will preserve its function since, as of 2015, this floor of the monastery will be home to the specialized programming in culture and total health of Le Monastère des Augustines.
Returning to the architect’s original intention gives the monastery back its meaning and its readability.