Notre Dame de Bon Secours (chapelle NotreDame de Bon Secours, “Our Lady of Good Help”) is a church in the district of Old Montreal in Montreal, Quebec. One of the oldest churches in Montreal, it was built in 1771 over the ruins of an earlier chapel.
St. Marguerite Bourgeoys, the first teacher in the colony of Ville-Marie and the founder of the Congregation of Notre Dame, rallied the colonists to build a chapel in 1655.
In 1673, returning from France, Bourgeoys brought a wooden image of Notre Dame de Bon Secours (Our Lady of Good Help); the stone church was completed in 1678. It burned in 1754, the reliquary and statue being rescued.
After Montreal was conquered by British forces during the French and Indian War, the church was attended by Irish and Scottish troops and families, and saw fundraising to build Saint Patrick’s Church, Montreal’s first anglophone Catholic parish.
In the 19th century, the chapel came to be a pilgrimage site for the sailors who arrived in the Old Port of Montreal; they would make offerings to the Virgin in gratitude for her “good help” for safe sea voyages.
In 1849, Mgr. Ignace Bourget, the Bishop of Montreal , gave the chapel a statue of the Virgin as Star of the Sea, which was placed atop the church overlooking the harbour. Emphasizing the connection of the chapel and the port, the chapel is often called the Sailors’ Church.
The chapel now also houses the Margeurite Bourgeoys Museum, dedicated to the life of St. Marguerite Bourgeoys and to the early history of Montreal and the chapel site. Below the chapel, the crypt is being excavated as an archeological site. First Nations and French Colonial artifacts have been discovered, along with the foundations of the first chapel and the fortifications of the colony.
In 2005, Marguerite Bourgeoy’s mortal remains were brought back to the church, where she now lies in the sanctuary.
The foundations of the original Notre Dame de Bon Secours Chapel built by Margeurite Bourgeoys in 1655; were found during archeological excavations under the current church.
Paul Chomedey de Maisoneuve at the age of 30, pictured above, was hired by Jerome le Royer de Dauversiere, a Jesuit, who was head of the Societe Notre Dame de Montreal. Le Royer had a vision that inspired him to build a mission on Montreal Island in New France. Maisoneuve was hired to lead the colonists and ensure their safety in the new land.
After the fall of Montreal to the British. The garrison included Irish and Scottish families who attended services at Notre Dame de Bon Secours. It was from this community that money was raised to begin construction of Saint Patrick’s, Montreal’s first parish for the English-speaking community.
Under the choir loft Notre Dame de Bon Secours, you can see an interesting painting, the gift of Bishop Bourget in 1849. This votive offering was a gift in thanksgiving for the end of the typhus epidemic that struck the city in 1847 with the arrival of immigrants in fever ships. Another of his gifts, the statue by Charles Dauphin called Star of the Sea, was raised to the roof of the chapel overlooking the port.
Across the street from Notre Dame de Bon Secours is the Pierre du Calvet house, built in 1770 and nicely restored in 1966, is an impressive sight. But in the 18th-century fortified town, the customers of the owner, a Huguenot merchant and supporter of the American Revolution, probably saw nothing unusual about the building. With its steeply pitched roof, its fieldstone walls secured with “S”-shaped iron bars and its casement windows, it was typical of the period. Note the end walls, which extend above the line of the roof as firebreaks. This type of construction became mandatory after the great fire of 1721.
Joseph Papineau 1752 – 1841
Notary , Member of Parliament; Lived in this House.
His son Louis-Joseph Papineau (1786 – 1871) Lawyer, Statesman and Leader of the Insurection of 1837 also lived here along with his family and descendants.
The rebellion of Lower Canada continued in 1838 and is often called Les rébellions de 1837–38 in Quebec. The actions of the rebels resulted in the declaration of martial law, and a first armed conflict occurred in 1837 when the 26 members of the Patriote movement who had been charged with illegal activities chose to resist their arrest by the authorities under the direction of John Colbourne.
In 1838, two major armed conflicts occurred when groups of Lower Canadian Patriotes led by Robert Nelson crossed the American border in an attempt to invade Lower Canada and Upper Canada, drive the British army out and establish independent republics, including the Republic of Lower Canada.
These events are often misreported which moves the attention away from three decades of political battles between the Parti Patriote of James Stuart and Louis-Joseph Papineau, who were seeking accountability from the elected government and governor of the colony.
However, the unelected body was dominated by a small group of mainly businessmen known as the Chateau Clique, the equivalent of the Family Compact in Upper Canada.
Lower Canada=today’s province of Quebec / Upper Canada=today’s province of Ontario
The movement for reform took shape in a period of economic disfranchisement of the French-speaking majority and working-class English-speaking citizens. But the rebellion focused on the unfairness of colonial governing as such, as many of the leaders and participants were English-speaking citizens of Lower Canada. In banking, the timber trade, and transportation, Anglophones were seen as disproportionately represented.
At the same time, some among the Anglophone business elite were advocating for a union of Upper and Lower Canada to ensure competitiveness on a national scale with the increasingly large and powerful economy of the United States (who, in part, inspired the rebels by their own successful war of independence).
The unification of the colony was a plan favoured by the British-appointed governor, George Ramsey, The Earl of Dalhousie. The reaction was a growing sense of nationalism among English and the French-speaking citizens, which solidified into the Parti canadien (after 1826 called the Parti patriote).
In 1811, James Stuart became leader of the Parti canadien in the assembly and in 1815, reformer Louis-Joseph Papineau was elected Assembly speaker. The Assembly, while elected, had little power; its decisions could be vetoed by a legislative council and the governor appointed by the British government.
Dalhousie and Papineau were soon at odds over the issue of uniting the Canadas. Dalhousie forced an election in 1827 rather than accept Papineau as speaker. Sympathizers of the reform movement in England had Dalhousie forced from his position and reappointed to India. Still, the legislative council and the assembly were not able to reach a compromise. By 1834, the assembly had passed the 92 resolutions, outlining its grievances against the legislative council.
At that point, the Patriote movement was supported by an overwhelming majority of the population of all origins.
Later in 1834, the Parti Patriote swept the election with more than three-quarters of the popular vote. However, the reformers in Lower Canada were divided over several issues. A moderate reformer named John Neilson had quit the party in 1830 and joined the Constitutional Association four years later. Papineau’s anti-clerical position alienated reformers in the Catholic Church, and his support for secular rather than religious schools made him a powerful enemy in Bishop Jean-Jacques Lartigue. Lartigue called on all Catholics to reject the reform movement and support the authorities, forcing many to choose between their religion and their political conviction.
However, Papineau continued to push for reform. He petitioned the British government to bring about reform, but in March 1837 the government of Lord Melbourne rejected all of Papineau’s requests. Papineau then organized protests and assemblies, and eventually approved the paramilitary Sociuete des files de la liberte (Society of the Sons of Liberty) during the Assemblee des six-comtes (The Assembly of the 6 counties)
Papineau escaped to the United States, but the rebels set themselves up in the countryside. Led by Wolfred Nelson, they defeated a British force at Saint-Denis on November 23rd . However, the British troops soon beat back the rebels, defeating them at Saint-Charles on November 25th and at St-Eustache on December 14th . Saint-Eustache was then pillaged and ransacked. On December 5th martial law was declared in Montreal. When news of the arrest of the Patriote leaders reached Upper Canada, William Lyon MacKenzie launched an armed rebellion in December 1837. In the meantime, filibusters from the United States, the Hunter Patriots formed a small militia and attacked Windsor, in Upper Canada, to further support the Canadian Patriots.
These revolts were quickly put down. The following year, leaders who had escaped across the border into the United States raided Lower Canada in February 1838. A second revolt began at the Battle of Beauharnois in November of the same year. This too was crushed by the British.
Britain dispatched Lord Durham to investigate the cause of the rebellion. His report recommended that the Canadas be united into one colony (the Province of Canada) to assimilate the French-speaking canadiens into the Anglophone, British culture. However, he recommended acceding to the rebels’ grievances by granting responsible government to the new colony.
Following the military defeat of the patriotes, Lower Canada was merged with Upper Canada under the Union Act. The canadiens barely remained a majority in the new political entity and with continued emigration to the English-speaking part of Canada, this dominance was short lived.
Eight years after Union, responsible government was set up in the united Province of Canada. The great instability of this new regime led to the formation of the Great Coaltion and another major constitutional change, Canadian Confederation in 1867.
The rebellion of the patriotes canadiens of Lower Canada, taken along with the Upper Canadian Rebellion, is often seen as the example of what might have happened to the United States of America if the American Revolutionary War had failed.
In Quebec, the rebellion (as well as the parliamentary and popular struggle) is now commemorated as the Journee nationale des patriotes (National Patriots Day) by the use of the Canadian Statutory Holiday on Victoria Day which is normally celebrated on the third Monday of May.
It has become a symbol for the contemporary Quebec Independence Movement and to a much lesser extent a symbol of Canada’s small almost insignificant republican movement.
I want to thank the following for their contributions to this article:
They are: my wife Roselyn Parrenas and my daughter Jessica Gauthier.
Photos provided by: Fergus JM Ducharme
Other materials and some photos provided by: www.wikipedia.org