Friday, August 4, 2017
As you explore Place-Royale in Old Québec, you’ll inevitably come across a massive mural painted on the side of Maison Soumande. Unveiled in 1999, the fresco—Fresque des Québécois—incorporates architectural elements characteristic of the Old City and features some of Québec’s great historical figures. Let’s see who they are and what they did.
Explored the Continent and Founded the First Settlements
You may have recognized Jacques Cartier (1) (1491–1557) and Samuel de Champlain (2) (circa 1580–1635). Both were explorers who mapped parts of northeastern North America. They also established colonies: Champlain in Québec City and Cartier, less auspiciously, in Cap‑Rouge. There’s also Louis Jolliet (3) (1645-ca. 1700), the Québec City native who mapped the Mississippi River.
Administrated and Organized the Territory
The fresco features two people who spent their lives developing and protecting New France. Jean Talon (4) (1626–1694), the colony’s first intendant, focused on increasing the population and diversifying the economy; his contemporary, Governor Louis de Buade (5), Comte de Frontenac (1622–1698), helped extend the borders of New France and organized Québec City’s defence. In the 19th and 20th centuries, Louis‑Joseph Papineau (6) (1786–1871) and Thaïs Lacoste‑Frémont (7) (1886–1963) were agents of change: Papineau fought to increase the autonomy of the colony’s political institutions, which led to the rebellions of 1837–1838, while Lacoste‑Frémont fought for the political and legal rights of women in Québec.
Worked for the Greater Good
François de Laval (8) (1623–1708), Québec City’s first bishop, and Marie Guyart (9) (1599–1672), cofounder of Québec City’s Ursuline community, both worked tirelessly to further education in New France. The bishop taught at the Seminary of Québec, while Guyart taught the girls of the colony. The woman standing beside Marie Guyart in the fresco is Catherine de Longpré (9) (1632–1668), who devoted her life to the sick at the hospital founded by the Augustines in Québec City. Marie Fitzbach (10) (1805–1886) and Marcelle Mallet (11) (1805–1871) each founded a religious order (Sœurs du Bon-Pasteur and Sœurs de la Charité de Québec, respectively) and spent their lives helping the poor and outcast. And Alphonse Desjardins (12) (1854–1920) created a credit union that bears his name to this day.
François-Xavier Garneau (13) (1809–1866) is considered Québec’s first national historian for his Histoire du Canada. Félix Leclerc (14) (1914–1988) was acclaimed throughout the French‑speaking world for his incredible songwriting and for launching a new musical style. And Lord Dufferin (15), by campaigning to preserve and promote the fortifications, helped give Québec City its distinctive cachet.
The Fresque des Québécois recognizes some of Québec’s leading lights, though there are many more who deserve to be remembered. Luckily, the fresco is just one in a series of murals on a variety of themes and characters that you’ll find scattered throughout the city center. Enjoy!
Fresque des Québécois
29 rue Notre Dame G1K 4E9 (at the botoom of Côte de la Montagne)
About Jérôme Ouellet
Jérôme Ouellet is a historian and archivist by training. He has worked for Québec's National Assembly and the Ministry of Culture and Communications and is fascinated by Québec City’s architectural and cultural heritage. His blog, started in 2014, is an ever‑growing collection of historical images that shine a light on the city’s past.