Quebec’s Saint-Charles and Notre-Dame-de-Belmont cemeteries reveal all their secrets this summer thanks to guided tours full of stories and anecdotes, each as fascinating as the next.
On board a 21-seater horse-drawn carriage, Johanne Gagnon introduces people who have shaped Québec’s history.
“It’s a visit for everyone,” said Ms.me Gagnon who is the instigator of this activity.
During these visits we will discover politicians, artists, musicians and historians who have shaped Quebec in their own way, without forgetting the victims of great dramas such as Rita Morel, who died in Sault-au-Cochon in 1949. This story inspired the film Le Crime d’Ovide Plouffe. Rita Morel, who was on board the plane that exploded in mid-air, rests in Saint-Charles Cemetery. The plane’s pilot, Pierre Laurin, is buried in the Notre-Dame-de-Belmont cemetery.
The visit lasts an hour and a half and focuses mainly on a dozen personalities such as Alice Robi and Arthur Buies, a journalist who died in Quebec and a loyal friend of Curé Labelle who colonized the Laurentians. Among others are former Quebec Mayors Jean Pelletier and Lucien Borne, and former Quebec Prime Minister and father of the Silent Revolution, Jean Lesage.
“We also research funerary art over the decades. The Notre-Dame-de-Belmont cemetery was inaugurated in 1859. From 1859 to the present day, we can trace the evolution of society,” says Ms.me Gagnon, who is also the coordinator of memorial and heritage events for the Compagnie Saint-Charles.
With the unusual walks of Mme Gagnon is like Quebec having its Père-Lachaise cemetery. In Paris, almost three million people visit this unique place every year. In Quebec City, almost 1,000 people take part in guided tours each summer, which are taking place for the third time this yeare Editing. After a two-year hiatus as a result of the pandemic, these tours, launched in 2018, are returning three times a week.
This activity costs $20 and is followed by a light snack. You must book in advance. The hikes will be presented until September 8th.
In the winter months, Mme Gagnon researches to improve the content of his visits. She has access to the Compagnie Saint-Charles archives, which are a gold mine of information. He sometimes contacts descendants to learn more about the people who shaped the city.
The Notre-Dame-de-Belmont cemetery was opened on July 3, 1859 following a political decision.
“Between 1832 and 1854, Quebec City was the Canadian city hardest hit by cholera. Cemeteries were poorly maintained. It was heavily drained and the townsfolk said we would never get out again. (…) We then decided to close all small cemeteries and open large cemeteries outside the city limits,” said the leader.
Established in 1855, Saint Charles Cemetery is the most populous in Quebec City and also the largest, with nearly 400,000 deceased.