​Religious Heritage Days, between heritage and living memory

This text is part of the special section Discovering our history

Highlighting religious heritage means reconnecting with the history, art and architecture of a territory and a building. Three days are dedicated to him throughout Quebec in September, through visits to places of worship, circuits, concerts and other conferences.

Coordinated by the Religious Heritage Council of Quebec (CPRQ), a non-profit organization, Religious Heritage Days are an opportunity to visit more than 245 sites and circuits. “We find ourselves collectively in a place with a different aura, in which generations have succeeded each other through different rites of passage, says Johanne Picard, project manager at the CPRQ. It is an atmosphere linked to life and death, which allows an awareness of the way in which the territory has been occupied. »

Among the 2751 places of worship inventoried in Quebec in 2003, 4% have disappeared voluntarily or have suffered a fire since. “We evolve as a society at the same time as we animate these places, and if we frequent them, then we no longer rub shoulders with them like simple ruins, continues Mme Picard. They become alive. Inviting people to enter is an opportunity to better understand the history of one’s locality, or even to visit other regions to discover them differently.

This year, 25% of the proposed sites are participating for the first time and ten faiths are represented, including the Anglican, United Church, Judaic and Muslim tradition. Two places associated with Aboriginal heritage will also take part in the event. In Wendake, a visit to the Notre-Dame-de-Lorette church and the Tsawenhohi house is planned in conjunction with the Huron-Wendat Museum. This bicentennial building bears the name of the first Grand Chief who lived in the house, Nicolas Vincent, dit Tsawenhohi, and is classified as “heritage property” by the Council of the Huron-Wendat Nation.

The doors of the Sainte Kateri Tekakwitha shrine in Kahnawake will also be open. Coming from the Mohawk community of Kahnawake, Kateri is the first Native woman in North America to be canonized, in 2012. “It’s a big plus,” rejoices Johanne Picard. We are happy that there is a stronger interfaith participation this year, although bridges still have to be built. »

A social, artistic and architectural heritage

Nearly 50 concerts will be held during these days, including recitals, organ performances and choir songs. Even if the religious message is no longer a carrier for many people, it is difficult to remain insensitive to the beauty of the music in these spaces, according to Johanne Picard.

Whether through the musical experience or meditation in commemorative sites, these days provide access to a social and artistic heritage. It is also the way to discover technical knowledge and the different materials used to erect temples, depending on the era.

“The landscape, the way the building is set up, the architecture, the sheet metal of the bell tower or the masonry are a set of symbolic, material and technical languages ​​which demonstrate in their own way how a community has mobilized to build something” , believes M.me Picard. For example, she mentions places that keep the memory of pioneer women who founded communities alive, such as Saint-Gabriel House in Montreal and the Ursuline Monastery in Quebec City.

Legacy before religion

At the same time, a series of 12 regional consultations took place from November to January to mobilize associations, cultural development agencies, museums and other tourism organizations. Several local circuits and visits to cemeteries have therefore been set up thanks to the contribution of volunteers and professionals. Each leader can also register voluntarily to participate in Religious Heritage Days.

“Our relationship with the religious authorities and the State is above all about the preservation of heritage,” emphasizes Johanne Picard. We are not in religion, but in the legacy received from our predecessors and newcomers who brought their own traditions. »

According to the latest inventory, 26% of places of worship no longer belong to a religious owner and are either closed, reused, or in the process of being so.

With its program to requalify surplus heritage places of worship, the CPRQ tries to support communities struggling with deteriorating places. “We find new functions for them so as not to end up with a vacant building,” she explains.

The 5e edition of Religious Heritage Days will take place on September 9, 10, and 11, 2022. All activities are free, but people can show their appreciation by leaving a donation. On the event’s website, it is possible to filter the activities by date and region or to walk on the geographical map.

25% This is the number of sites participating for the first time this year in Religious Heritage Days.

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