Église de Saint-Eustache – Vieux Saint-Eustache, Québec
Northwest of Montréal you’ll find the historically significant town of Saint-Eustache. This small community was founded in 1770 around a flour mill built on the du Chene River.
As indicated by this mural across the street from the Church, the town was the site of the last battle of the Lower Canada rebellion of les Patriotes in 1837.
The rebellions against the British that took place in 1837-38 in both Ontario (Upper Canada) and Québec (Lower Canada) are considered Canada’s unsuccessful war of independence.
The desire for political autonomy and the right to self-determination were the main reasons, and of course at the time these were not rights that the British were ready to allow.
After months of battles across the Lower Canada countryside, that included the imposing of Marshall Law in Montréal, the British finally gained the upper hand over the rebels.
With the last of the rebels holed up in Saint-Eustache, British Commander Sir John Colborne was dispatched along with close to 1500 troops and a few dozen cannons to quash the rebellion once and for all.
Upon their arrival on December 14th much of the village was burned to the ground by the British. Between this and seeing how heavily outnumbered and over-matched they were, many of the Patriotes rebels simply fled or layed down their arms.
Those that remained retreated and set up positions in the upper windows of the town’s Church; assuming they stood a better chance from these higher positions.
They also assumed that the British wouldn’t attempt to burn down a place of worship.
They were wrong.
The battle lasted about four hours with Colborne and his troops laying siege to the Church. With the exception of the main facade they burned most of the structure to the ground, and shot or captured the remaining rebels as they escaped from the burning building.
Though the church was rebuilt in the 1840’s, today the scars from the bullet holes and cannon balls can still be found in the stone walls.
When we last visited in the summer the main doors were open, welcoming visitors for guided tours of this National Historic Site
Though we didn’t get to photograph the main doors, at least we had the chance to go inside and check out the beautiful interior 🙂
One of the other interesting things about this church is its world-renowned acoustic qualities due in part to the curved ceiling.
In the 1980’s and 90’s Conductor Charles Dutoit and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra recorded a number of their all-time biggest selling, Grammy-winning albums here. Classical concerts are still held here year-round and are a real treat, with wonderfully even sound virtually anywhere you sit.
On the way out we did find a few other nice doors as well 🙂
I find it somewhat heartwarming to know that a place that had seen such ruthless violence 180 years ago, helps make beautiful music today.
As always, thanks so much for visiting 🙂