Last Updated on March 12, 2021 by Pamela
Cover Photo Credit: © Parks Canada / Mathieu Dupuis – View of Lairet River and Quebec City in the distance. Cartier-Brébeuf National Historic Site.
Lose yourself at Cartier-Brébeuf, a National Historic Site located within a sprawling 6.8-hectare park, Parc Anse-à-Cartier. Sitting on the banks of the Saint-Charles and Lairet Rivers, this National Historic Site is the perfect place to enjoy nature, explore, and relax.
Rent bikes and discover the site’s bike path, stopping to enjoy the views of Quebec City, or explore on foot. Bring some food and settle down for a picnic on a warm summer day. Explore historical markers using interactive tablets. Whatever you chose, Cartier-Brébeuf National Historic Site is a lovely little escape within the city.
A Brief History
It is here that Jacques Cartier made his winter camp during his second voyage to the region, in 1535-1536.
Looking for a harbor for his ships, Grande Hermine and Petite Hermine, Cartier stumbled upon a harbor area at the confluence of the Saint-Charles and Lairet Rivers. Located near an Iroquois village, Stadacona (today’s Quebec City), the ship’s crew built a small protection walls around the ships in the hopes of protecting them from the Iroquois.
The Iroquois was the least of their worries, in comparison to the harshness of the Canadian winter they experienced. Opting to sleep in the ship’s steerage, instead of building shelters outside, the crew suffered greatly from the cold and 106 of the 110 crew came down with scurvy (around a quarter of them died). Those who survived, did so thanks to Annedda, a compound made with Northern white cedar, something they likely learned from the nearby Iroquois.
When time came from Cartier to return to France, he didn’t have enough crew left to sail both ships back, so he left Petite Hermine behind in the harbor, which he named Sainte-Croix Harbor.
Eighty-nine years later, five Jesuit missionaries from France arrived in the area where Cartier once wintered. On a mission to convert the Iroquois, they settled the first Society of Jesus (a religious order founded by Ignatius of Loyola and six companions and sanctioned by Pope Paul III in 1540) in Quebec.
Among the five new arrivals was Jean de Brébeuf, a priest ordained in 1622. Brébeuf served in several areas after his arrival in New France in 1625, the first being at Sainte-Marie among Hurons (now Midland, Ontario). By 1628, when Brébeuf returned to Québec, he had lived with a tribe of Algonquin-speaking Montagnais, Iroquois-speaking Huron, and with the Bear Tribe at Toanché.
Throughout his time in New France, Jean de Brébeuf worked with indigenous tribes, most notably the Huron-Wendat. He learned their language, teaching it to fellow missionaries and colonists. He acted as an advisor and confessor to the Ursuline and Augustinian sisters for a time, and slowly converted a small number of indigenous peoples to Christianity.
His missionary work, however, led to his death in 1649 when he was captured by a group of Iroquois, along with other priests and indigenous converts. His death came after hours of torture, which Brébeuf is said to have endured in silence.
On 29 June 1930 Jean de Breebeuf was canonized by Pope Pius XI, and became a patron saint of Canada on 16 October 1940 by Pope Pius XII.
Take an Interactive Self-Guided Tour
Cartier-Brébeuf National Historic Site is ideal on a warm day, especially in summer or autumn. While everyone is welcome to walk the trail and read the various information boards on display throughout the site, you can take your experience to the next level by signing out a tablet before you start.
With tablet in hand, dive into the history of this beautiful area, viewing illustrations and photographs which help to tell the story of Jacques Cartier’s settlement, as well as Jean de Brébeuf and the Jesuits.
Don’t forget to check out the Petite Hermine installation, steles commemorating the meeting of French and indigenous cultures, as well as a representation of the cross erected by Jacques Cartier in 1536.
Xplorers Activities for Kids
Visiting Cartier-Brébeuf National Historic Site with kids? Good news… Cartier-Brébeuf is one of 23 Parks Canada sites in Québec which offers the Xplorers program. Stop by the Parks Canada office to pick-up an Xplorers booklet, and let the adventures begin!
Visit Cartier-Brébeuf National Historic Site
175, rue de l’Espinay, Quebec City
Admission is FREE
COVID UPDATE: As of March 9, 2021, most regions in Quebec (with the exception of Montreal and its surrounding regions) are now orange zone, with a 9:30pm – 5am curfew. Restaurants will now be open for dine-in (with restrictions), as well as gyms, museums, shops, and salons. Bars remain closed. Travel to Quebec at this time is not advisable. In the meantime, I hope you will utilize this site for travel inspiration and future travel planning!
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