Journey into the history of the Augustinian Sisters' heritage in the heart of Old Quebec City (Canada) and enjoy a tranquil, restorative break at Le Monastère des Augustines.
The Women in Travel Summit (WITS) (2018) was held in Quebec City, and in the days before the conference started we were treated to some hosted tours and experiences around Quebec City. From walking food tours, nature experiences, farm visits and more, these tours were a great opportunity to learn about Quebec City in a short space of time. Attendees of the conference arrive from all over the world, and many of us were in town for just a few days so these experiences were an ideal way to get a glimpse of the local scene.
One of the available tours took us to Le Monastère des Augustines for a guided tour to learn the history of this restored Canadian National Historic Site, visit the museum and take a restorative stretch & yoga class.
Table of contents
The history of Le Monastère des Augustines
Founded in 1639 by the Augustine Sisters, this heritage site which is located in the heart of Old Quebec City, was in the middle of the woods and is the location of the first hospital in Canada and the US. The Sisters, a community of nurses and pharmacists, were sent from France by the King with the mission to heal the bodies and souls of the people of Canada.
The life of the Augustine Sisters
As told to us by Marie-Eve, the Manager of Tourism Development at the monastery, the Augustinian Sisters lived a semi-cloistered life and devoted themselves day and night to the sick, while others assisted by performing household tasks.
They took a vow of poverty and their attire of a tunic & veil were their only possessions. Black and white clothing to mark the first steps towards her perpetual profession of vows, and made of rough cloth because the work will be hard.
Until the end of the 19th century, the apothecary sister played an indispensable role in the hospital. Accompanying the doctor on his round three times a day, she recorded the patient’s temperatures and vital signs, changed bandages and was also responsible for the surgical instruments and assisted the surgeon.
Her specialty was in the various medications that she prepared from plants and herbs imported from France or grown in the monastery garden. The knowledge of making these syrups, infusions, salves and ointments, was passed down from previous apothecary sisters.
The restoration of the building and opening to the public
In the 1950s there were about 225 Sisters living at the monastery and today there are about 10 Sisters with an average age of around 85.
In the early 1990s they realized that the community was declining in numbers and the Sisters started to reflect on the future of their heritage. They made the decision to give the monastery along with 40,000 artifacts, documents and archives to the population of Quebec.
The site opened to the public in 2015 after 3 years of restoration with the help of 70 volunteers working together with the Sisters.
Things to do at Le Monastère des Augustines
The current concept of the monastery in Quebec City retains and ensures the longevity of the Augustine nuns and pays tribute to their dedication to health. A visit to this tranquil site is a unique experience offering several ways to get in touch with the Augustinian Sisters’ heritage.
- A museum and archive centre where you can take guided or unguided tours.
- Unique & simple accommodations in the former cloister:
- The Legacy rooms are simple and unadorned with the option of single or double rooms with shared bathrooms. The experience is like staying in a monastery hostel.
- The Contemporary rooms are also quite simple and have a private bathroom. These rooms are more like a monastery hotel experience.
- A wellness centre with multi-day and single day wellness experiences designed to stimulate and harmonize the body with promoting self-reflection and renewal as well as global health care treatments.
- Some of the group wellness spaces are located in the stone & brick 1695 Vaults lined with historic artifacts.
- Meeting & event room rentals.
- A restaurant featuring local, farm-fresh and seasonal ingredients. The Augustinian nuns assigned an important role to nutrition in their approach to health, and the restaurant menu is created with this in mind. The food is based on the concept of conscious nutrition, with suggestions but never dictating what people should eat.
- Multi-day stays
- The Consumer Packages range from the simple with accommodations, breakfast at the on-site restaurant and access to the museum or you can add on holistic health & wellness options.
- The Solidarity Respites are packages built for caregivers, companions of sick persons hospitalized at the nearby hospital, health workers and teachers/education workers.
If you are in Quebec City this is a great stop for a museum & heritage tour, to take a single wellness class or to book a full wellness travel stay.