On August 1st 1639, three nuns arrived from France to bring care to the Aboriginal people and early French Settlers of Canada. L’Hotel Dieu would become the first hospital established north of Mexico. Over the course of four centuries, the Augustinian sisters would lay the foundation for Quebec’s modern healthcare system. These strong women were not only devoted to their faith but also to their values of health and wellness. They were the doctors, nurses, pharmacists and religious symbols to those in need.
Today, the ancient convent is home to Le Monastere Des Augustines, a healing hotel of the world. Echoing the traditions of its former cloister, the property pays tribute to its foundation in holistic health. From a morning ritual steeped in silence to the elevating sounds of monastic chants, our time at this haven of tranquility was a transcending experience. If you are looking for the ultimate contemplative atmosphere, read on to discover how a hotel can be more then just a place to stay.
A Nun’s Cell
Housed within the ancient wings of L’Hotel Dieu, the inclusion of a hotel has resulted in a beautiful restoration of the building. Contemporary architecture lives harmoniously with the original 17th century structure. A wooden staircase dating back to 1757 has been carefully preserved. Floor to ceiling glass walls, gently encase antique brick work. And modern bridges connect the various sections of this now World Heritage Site.
Marrying old with new, the hotel invites guests to choose from two room categories:
The first, is an authentic stay in a nun’s former cell. Restored in the spirit of monasticism, these rooms provide comfortable accommodations with a collection of antique furniture. Each piece is a part of the 40,000 historic artifacts within the building. They also share access to a communal washroom, mimicking how the sisters would have also used the space. And finally, entry to these rooms is through a small wooden door approximately half the size of today’s norms. These doors, illustrate the small frame of the powerful women who lived beyond them.
The second, is a contemporary room. These rooms have been redesigned with care to offer modern comforts in harmony with the building’s history. Furnishings are simple but current and guests have access to their own private washroom. Located on the top floor, preserved window alcoves provide lovely views. We chose to stay in a contemporary room, mainly for the private washroom, and we loved the space, however a return visit would have us trying the authentic rooms.
Through out the building, the corridors are peacefully quiet, and although it’s not a requirement, you naturally feel inclined to whisper. A warm colour scheme aligns with concepts of serenity and the overall design reflects the importance of openness. In every way the building adheres to the principals of the Augustinian sisters.
Food for Wellness
Just as the concepts of health and wellness are mirrored in the building’s design, they are also present in the food available. Based on concepts around mindful eating, the restaurant serves local, organic ingredients. Dishes take into account seasonality and sustainable development while providing a nourishing meal. Guests have access to breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as personalized healthy eating consultations. These specialized services are just one example of the property’s commitment to being a healing hotel.
While we were unfortunately unable to experience the evening course, we did have the privilege of joining the silent breakfast. Paying tribute to the sisters vocation, the first meal of the day is eaten in complete silence. Staff serve coffee with a friendly smile but guests are encouraged to enjoy the contemplative setting. While it doesn’t sound like it would be difficult to eat in silence, doing so made us very much more aware of the moment. And as a result we were able to enjoy a short time in complete quiet.
Not Just A Hotel
In addition to comfortable accommodations and nourishing food, the hotel also offers programs founded in holistic health. Guests can choose from activities such as a yoga class, breathing exercises, a meditation course, an artistic workshop, multiple massages and more. Activities are daily and are available as an addition to your stay or within a package. With a broad range of programs, you could easily spend your entire time within the hotel walls.
Lastly, within the property is a museum and archives. With 400 years worth of history and over 40,000 artifacts, it was imperative that the restoration of the building take into consideration the importance of preserving the Augustinian sisters story. The exhibition traces the evolution of health care in Quebec and provides a glimpse into some of Canada’s earliest days. While the museum reserve showcases the majority, additional artifacts are also scattered throughout the buildings halls. A stroll through the various wings alone provides insight into these amazing women’s lives.
While serving as a hotel, Le Monastere Des Augustines is so much more. It is a canvas beautifully illustrating the sisters story, a snapshot in time and historical evidence of the evolution of health care in North America. For those seeking unique accommodations in Old Quebec this is an ideal locations. For those yearning for a silent retreat soaked in relaxation this is the place. And finally for anyone wanting to learn more about this fascinating chapter in Quebec’s history a visit is a must.