Last Updated on October 2, 2022 by Pamela
Somewhere between doing downward dog and sipping organic tea (blended in-house using herbs that have been a part of the monastère’s apothecary since the 17th century), you will exhale slowly and come to the realization that you are in a truly transcendent space.
No longer a cloistered monastery, Le Monastère des Augustines has been transformed into one of the best wellness retreats in Canada – winning awards and critical acclaim around the world.
Petit, dressed head to toe in white with a kindly and reflective demeanour, the elderly Augustine sisters reverently walk the halls of the monastère. At one time there were 200 sisters living in the monastery, today there are less than twenty (many of whom are over eighty years of age).
375+ years of history
Established shortly after the Augustinian sisters arrived in 1639, Le Monastère des Augustines began as a small hospital (the first in North America) in the middle of the woods. Their mission, as requested by the Duchess of Aiguillon, was to care for the body and souls of the colonists and first nations people.
Over (more than) 375 years, the sisters built twelve hospitals in the province of Québec, earned degrees from various colleges and universities, travelled the world in an effort to expand their medical knowledge, and created a teaching hospital.
Catching a glimpse of an Augustine sister in the halls or coming from the hospital feels as though you have stumbled upon a lucky penny. There is a mixture of emotions: a desire to ask them to tell you a story about their life as a sister or how they feel about the changes, a sense of great respect and a desire to not interrupt their work.
While most of the sisters are retired from nursing at the hospital (Hôtel Dieu de Québec), many still visit the patients, tending to their spiritual needs.
museum & archives
The monastère’s crowning jewels are its museum and archives which provide a glimpse into the 375+ years of service provided by the Augustine sisters. The museum provides the public with a visual journey examining the daily life of the sisters, as well as their mission to care for the health and spirituality of the residents of New France (now Quebec City). Learn about everything from their clothing to building the first hospital, travelling the world to learn medical procedures and their continued service.
Available by appointment only, the archives contain thousands of documents and books chronicling life in Quebec from the time the Augustines arrived in 1639. Over the years, the archives have become a valuable asset to those tracing their Québécois ancestry – especially those who learn of their link to important historical figures.
Wellness activities at the monastère are available to everyone. While some participate in an effort to relieve the strain of tending to ailing loved ones, other come weekly to participate in classes such as yoga and meditation.
Special events such as meditation performances, herbalist classes, and talks centred on health and wellness take place throughout the year (visit their website for schedules)
You don’t have to be religious to experience the awe and reverence of Le Monastère. The calm and serenity of the monastery will seep into your subconscious subtly as you wander down the hallways.
The beds in the Auberge are heavenly and convincing yourself to get up in the morning becomes a challenge. While the contemporary rooms are cozy and come with their own bathroom, the authentic rooms, once the cells of the Augustine sisters, have an allure of their own.
Authentic rooms are small with a twin-sized wrought iron bed, a soft mattress and heavy duvet. A small desk and chair sit towards the door, and a wardrobe is provided for clothing. A sink for washing up rest near a window with views of the courtyard below.
Bathrooms are communal and located down the hall.
[Some Authentic rooms have two double beds]
No matter which room style you choose, breakfast, which is served in the monastery’s restaurant, is eaten in silence. A lovely way to start the day. Of course, not everyone spends the night at Le Monastère, instead, they visit the museum, indulge in a healthy gourmet lunch or dinner or take advantage of the peaceful gardens.
The Augustinian sisters arrived with a mission to aid the colonist with their health and well-being, and now, over four hundred years later, they continue their work.