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Blessed Queen! upon our souls

Thy warm smile reposes,

Let it thaw their wintry cold,

Draw from out their icy mold

Bright celestial roses.


E. C. Donnelly. 


Notre-Dame-des-Victoires Church

Church in Quebec City, Quebec

The real founding of Quebec was in 1608, when a post was established at the foot of the steep by that "Father of Canada," Champlain.  Among the cities of the New World, there is certainly none grander in situation, more romantic in association, more picturesque in detail, than the Sentinel City that keeps the gates of the St. Lawrence.  With its quaint, steep-roofed houses, precipitous streets, breadths of gray cliff-front, and far up on the summit of the height the grim eyrie of the ancient citadel and the frowning guns of the grand battery, Quebec seems certainly well called the Gibraltar of America.   There is the monument to Wolfe and Montcalm, on the very field where they fought so good a fight, and both fell, covered with glory. 


There, too, is the obelisk to Montcalm, stating that destiny, though it deprived him of victory, compensated him by a glorious death.  No Englishman can taunt his French brothers with the result of the battle on the Heights of Abraham, for their defeat was fully as glorious as victory.  The French are proud of being beaten by such a Bayard as Wolfe; the English are proud of having beaten such a Duqueslin as Montcalm. 


Quebec is not only an eminently French city; it is also an eminently Catholic city.  Not only were Recollects and Jesuits among its earliest and most dauntless citizens, but, back nearly three centuries, it could boast of a bishop of its own, the noble scion of the house of Montmorency, Jean Francois Laval, first Bishop of Canada.  His See was in Quebec, although the town could offer him no better accommodation than a room in the house of Madame de la Petrie.  It was in October 1874, that the present French cathedral of Quebec, the church of Notre Dame, was elevated into a basilica in honor of the second centenary of the erection of the See of Quebec.  A plain edifice exteriorly, with a cut-stone front, added in 1844, and rather unpleasantly contrasting with the remainder of the structure, it is, nevertheless, quite large, capable of accommodating four thousand people, and its interior is very rich and impressive.  Massive arches of stone divide the nave from the aisles, above which is a gallery at each side running the whole length of the church.  At the east end are the grand altar and choir, superbly decorated.  The vestments used at this altar are probably more gorgeous in adornment than anywhere else in America, many of them being gifts from French Kings.  There are also four small chapels in the aisles, after the manner of European churches, dedicated to different Saints.  In a transverse gallery at the west end is a fine organ, rivalling that in the English cathedral.  There are also sacred paintings of great value, among them a St. Paul by Carlos Marratto, a Crucifixion by Van Dyke, and several examples by Carracci and Halle.  Many of the paintings in the cathedral were secured in France during the Revolution in 1793.  They were bought from their infidel captors and sent with all speed to the secure shores of New France. 


Within the choir of the cathedral, a little to the right of the altar, is a marble tablet with an inscription to the memory of Bishop Plessis, whose sanctity and zeal made him the pride of all Canada; while near at hand is the tomb, not only of that first Bishop of Canada, Mgr. Laval, but also of the heroic explorer, founder and first Governor of Quebec, Champlain.


Thus, the first Governor and the first Bishop lie side by side in death. Within these walls, too, is buried the fiery and chivalric Frontenac, Governor of Canada from 1688 to 1698. 


Canada as a Catholic province was a perpetual eyesore to the New England Zealots of the seventeenth and early eighteenth century.  To overthrow Catholicity there, was the great object of their thoughts.  Not to forego the opportunity of leveling church and convent, of showing their love for Christ and her whom He loved, by treating with every indignity any representation of them, they exposed their frontiers to the horrors of Indian war, rejecting all Canadian proffers of neutrality.  They were many; the Canadians were few.  In 1690 a mighty expedition was sent out from Boston and, before the first intelligence of such a project reached the French Governor, the New England fleet was in the St. Lawrence.  Frontenac hastened back to Quebec from Montreal, and did what man could do.  He was brave and he was capable.  When he looked around on his petty force, he thought of one ally not to be overlooked.  It was Mary’s land, and the Blessed Virgin was invoked at every altar, in every household.  A painting of the Holy Family was hung out on the steeple of the cathedral, and all hearts beat high with hope.  In a few days Phips, the English commander, defeated and baffled, fled down the river, leaving his own flag in the hands of the French, to be hung up in the cathedral as a trophy.  "Then," says a nun of the Hotel Dieu, a magnificent procession was made to all the churches of Quebec; the image of the Blessed Virgin was borne in triumph as Our Liberatrix, who had vanquished our enemies; all resounded with praises of the Queen of Angels, and of her Divine Son, who had given us such signal marks of His protection.  The feast of Our Lady of Victory (October 7) was established in the church of the Lower Town as an eternal memorial of the defeat of the English.  To Our Lady was attributed all the glory of this victory, without speaking of the prudence of the Governor, the valor of the officers, the bravery of the soldiers and settlers; and no one objected, so convinced were all that Mary alone had repulsed our enemies." 


If you seek this plain, unpretending, though substantial church, by the market-place in the Lower Town of Quebec, you will find it called, not by the name we have given, but by that of Our Lady of Victories, and you may ask the reason.  You will find that again, in 1711, Canada was menaced, a powerful fleet again sailed towards the mouth of the St. Lawrence, a formidable army marched on Montreal.  In that city the ladies discarded all fineries for a year, and vowed a chapel to Our Lady of Victory; at Quebec all gathered around the May altars, to implore once more her potent protection.  Though hopeful, every face was serious, impressed with the importance of the hour, and of the utter inefficiency of human means.  The novena to Our Lady of Pity had but just ended in the cathedral of Quebec, when the clients of Mary, passing out on the square, met persons just arrived from France.  A French ship had entered the river! where then were the English? The fleet, wrecked with fearful loss on the rocky shore, had strewn the riverside with dead bodies and fragments of all kinds; a few ships only got away to spread dismay through New England.  On land panic had seized their army, which broke up in disorder.  Then rose in Montreal, beside the convent of the sisters of the Congregation of Our Lady, the chapel of Our Lady of Victory, and that at Quebec assumed its present name.


The Jesuits who after commencing their missions in Nova Scotia and Maine, came to found in Canada missions which have excited the admiration and wonder of all, and have found in our day Protestant eulogists in Bancroft, Kip, and Parkman, consecrated their first chapel in Canada to Our Lady of Angels. 


In 1639 they summoned to their aid new auxiliaries, not brave and fearless men, soldiers of the Cross trained in seminaries of theology, but weak, though devoted and dauntless women. 


One of these, Mother Mary of the Incarnation, Foundress of the Ursuline Convent in Quebec, had been already interiorly called to this field of labor.  "One holy Christmas-tide, in her home at Tours, France, when her heart and soul had been particularly given up to union with God by meditation on the mystery of His Incarnation, she fell asleep and dreamed.  She thought that she, with one companion, hand in hand, were toiling along a broken and difficult road; more difficult than ordinary, because they did not see, but only felt, the obstacles.  But they had good courage, and went on until they reached a place known as the Tannery, beyond which lay their home. 


"Here they were met by a venerable old man, in whose pure, sacred lineaments beamed kindness and protection.  It was he who had watched and guided Holy Mary and her Child from the roofs of Bethlehem to the palm shades of Egypt.  And St. Joseph, she thought, conducted them into a vast enclosure, whereof the sky was the only roof.  The pavement and the walls were of white, spotless alabaster, and supported with gold.  Here all was silence, deep religious, recollected.  And without disturbing the holy stillness by a word, their guide pointed out to them the way they should go.  And they saw a little hospice of quaint, ancient architecture, but very beautiful, and of snow-white marble; and in an embrasure of this, upon a delicately-sculptured seat, sat Our Blessed Lady, with the Infant Jesus in her arms; but their backs were toward the travelers.


"Mary of the Incarnation sprang forward and embraced the throne of her Queen, while her companion knelt at a little distance, where she could easily see the Virgin and her Child.  The hospice faced the Orient.  It was built upon an eminence, and at the foot of this was a vast space, murky with clouds; and through the thick chill mists, there rose into pure air the spire and gables of a church, but the body of it was hidden by the heavy fog.  A rugged, perilous road led down the rocks into this space, winding along fearful precipices and through cavernous rents in the mountain.  Our Lady’s gaze was fixed upon this gloomy space, and the heart of the nun kneeling behind her burned with desire to see the face of the Mother of pure delights. 


"And then the virgin turned, and welcomed the suppliant with a smile of ineffable sweetness, and bending down she gently kissed her forehead.  Then she seemed to whisper something about the Ursuline to the Divine Child in her arms.  And when she had done this three times the vision faded, and in a tremor of delight the nun awoke." 


Mary of the Incarnation came to Quebec.  A devoted French lady, Madame de la Peltree, gave means to found the Ursuline convent, and gave herself to it. 


For two centuries and a half that holy institution has taught the Canadian girls of all ranks and races to love Jesus and Mary. 


Their annals are full of instances of tender devotion to the Mother of God and of her favors to the devout clients who sought her intercession. 


You’ll see that the altar is shaped like a fortress. It symbolizes two famous victories over British invaders in 1690 and 1711 after which the church is named. The church is also noted for the replica of the ship, the Brézé, that’s suspended from the ceiling. This ship brought French soldiers to Canada in 1664 to help chase British forces out of the colonies.



Lady of victory, Regent of hearts. 

Thy name in the combat new courage imparts, 

With banner of white 

And watchword of peace, 

Thou comest in light 

And war hath surcease, 

Thou comest an army all set in array, 

The minions of Satan against thee in fray; 

And lo! they are vanquished, and flee in affright, 

Before thee, who standest in purity’s might. 

Thy weapon is love, 

O Regent of hearts! 

The angels above 

Wing thy sin-hostile darts; 

Before thee the banners of Satan are furled, 

Our Lady of Victory, Queen of God’s world! 



The Eternal Father, wishing to show all possible mercy, besides giving us Jesus Christ, our principal advocate with Him, was pleased also to give us Mary, as our advocate with Jesus.

-St. Bernard. 

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