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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Québec’s Église Saint-Vincent-de-Paul

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eglise Saint-Vincent-de-Paul facade
eglise Saint-Vincent-de-Paul back end

The facade of Église Saint-Vincent-de-Paul seduced me during a recent visit to Quebec city. It floats disembodied on the edge of a precipice, in the elbow of a highway, like a gateway into a foreign land.

Trying to track down the name of the church, I stumbled upon a news story which hit the press just yesterday. The property is currently owned by a hotelier who, last summer, was granted a permit to dismantle and rebuild the facade. The owner had proposed a 300-room hotel on the site, but the mayor threatened to expropriate him if the project did not include housing. Nothing has budged since.

But now, with the ruined church about to face another winter exposed, the culture minister has conceded that the facade need not be conserved. Mayor Lebaume seems to be pressing for demolition, stressing that it is not a heritage building.

“Alors, qu’est-ce qui est mieux? Un projet pas de façade. Pas de projet et une façade.”

What is better, asks the Voir, A project with no façade. Or a façade with no project?

A question Montrealers have been asking ourselves about the Quadrilatère Saint-Laurent, the Seville Theatre, the Maison Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine and others…

By the way, my little foray into Quebec City urbanism also led me to the Québec Urbain blog that reminds me a bit of Spacing (en français, évidemment). Worth checking out, especially for Francis Vachon’s pro aerial photography.



  1. This is sad. The developer acted in bad faith from day one, has consistently refused to speak to the press, and presented a sub-par project better suited for the outer rings of suburbia. Now the city gives in when it should be expropriating him. This facade is the only tangible reminder of the charitable work of Saint Vincent de Paul in Quebec City, and could be skillfully integrated by a good architect.


  2. Thanks for that info … I love the pics and the story about it made it more interesting

  3. Yes, this is a very sad case. There was something very impressive about that church façade when walking up or down the Côte. Definitely warrants expropriation.

  4. The facade is attractive and to say it’s not heritage is purely political and not grounded in reality.

  5. UPDATE Dec 9th: Mayor Regis Lebaume asks that the facade be demolished ASAP and replaced with a hotel. According to the mayor, the developer’s architectural plans are “spectacular” although they are not yet public. The building will include some kind of arch that recalls the presence of a church. The mayor assured the public that other lots in the area will “probably be dedicated to residential development”

  6. What exactly put the church in this condition? I saw it on a recent trip to the city and cannot find any information about it.

  7. Sean, the link posted by Patrick in the first comment above should answer your question. Basically, the church was sold to a private developer who neglected it until it wasn’t fit to be recycled and had to be torn down.

  8. Yes such destruction of obviously quality buildings is shameful, and all for short term investment. We are destroying grand monuments, thus our own cultural heritage. The west is repeating the errors of the past, thus expressing a deep and growing problem within it’s collective consciousness. People here in Paris observe this destruction with utter dismay. From here it is inconceivable that this can happen, as so much here has been destroyed by war, Quebec’s monuments are bombarbed by ignorance and greed.

  9. Shameful! such a beautiful facade. It has been pulling me in for years. It should be a used for community centre, soup kitchen, shelter, low income housing or something indicative of its name sake… certanily not capitalist gain. French Catholic fervor move over. St Anne’s, pray for your future.

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