Every city has its own feel, created by a blending of the people that live there, the visitors, the main industry, degree of tourism, major sites, food it’s know for… the unique blend of elements come together to create the city’s vibe. When I am visiting new cities, I often seek out street art, which speaks a lot to the unique flavor of that place. Is the city music focused? More activist? Are pieces technology focused, or culture focused? Are there pieces of protest and statement? Or tributes of affection and beauty?
In Quebec City, I found many pieces that surprised me. Some made me laugh and some showed up on the weirdest of places. I’ll talk more about some of those later, but for today, I want to focus on Quebec City’s murals.
Quebec City has invested in and maintained huge murals throughout the city. When you turn a corner and come upon one, you will probably stop and stare for a few minutes even just out of surprise. Most are trompe-l’œil, meaning they are very realistic looking, causing a double take if you aren’t expecting it. It’s easy to find yourself standing and craning your neck upward, finding little details like students kissing in a corner, or realizing that dove in flight (complete with realistic shadow) is part of the mural, not a real bird. But don’t worry, there will be people scattered around you doing the same thing.
As I started reading about the murals I found, I realized how much of a deeper meaning they have. These murals tell the complex story of the city, the history of life and politics of a city so beloved by its inhabitants. So here, I want to share with you the three murals I found the most beautiful and rich in history.
La Fresque des Québécois
Near Place Royale, right where Côte de la Montagne curves around to intersect Rue Notre Dame, is the first and probably most known mural in Quebec City. La Fresque des Québécois was completed and installed in 1999 by Cité Création and local artists. As you examine the mural, you will see a mixture of different periods of history, elements from French settlers, British settlers, immigrant groups, along with what look like modern day students, shoppers & tourists. There are also number of important historical figures represented. Within the mural are 16 key figures imporant to the history of Quebec City, including:
- Samuel de Champlain – called the ‘Father of New France,’ Champlain was an explorer who founded Quebec City in July 1608, made the first accurate map of the area, and worked to found the first settlements.
- Marie Guyard de l’Incarnation – a nun, declared a saint, who established the Ursuline Order and who also founded the first girls’ school in the New World.
- Lord Dufferin – Governor General of Canada, he was the first to make the Citadelle of Quebec a vice-regal residence and saved the city walls from destruction. The is also the ‘Dufferin’ of Terrasse Dufferin fame.
- Félix Leclerc – A political activist, singer & songwriter who was made an Officer of the Order of Canada and inducted into the Canadian Songwriter’s Hall of Fame.
- Thais Lacoste-Fremont – woman’s rights activist who founder the Quebec Conservative Women’s Association in 1926.
- Bonus: Do you see how the four seasons are depicted??
La Fresque du Petit-Champlain
Not far from La Fresque des Québécois, near the end of Rue du Petit Champlain, is Fresque du Petit-Champlain, created in 2001. The mural shows life in the history of this small, working class neighborhood of Quebec City. In addition to elements of sea port life and trade and a woman depicted as a sailor’s wife awaiting his return, see if you can find:
- Lord Nelson – This is the same Horatio Nelson of the Battle of Trafalgar fame where he defeated Napoleon. (If you’re not a history buff, just think Trafalgar Square in London, he’s atop the column in the center.) He’s easier to find in the mural if you keep in mind that he met and married Frances “Fanny” Nisbet from of a family from Nevis. There is one story that he had to be dragged away from her and back to his ship by his fellow crewman at one point – but I had trouble finding too much to back up that story!
- Gustave Guay – a sail repairer
- Captain Bernier – A Quebec sailor and captain who explored the Arctic and claimed the Arctic archipelago for Canada.
La Fresque BMO de la Capitale Nationale du Quebec
Moving into the bustle of Quebec City, outside the city walls and where Rue Jacques-Parizeau crosses Rue de la Chevrotière, we find the third mural I’ll list here, La Fresque BMO de la Capitale Nationale du Québec. More specific than the history of Quebec, this mural depicts key figures from the city’s political past. Depicted in this mural are, among others:
- Jean-Antoine Panet – who defended the town of Quebec during the American Revolution and was later elected to the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada, and the first speaker for the assembly.
- John Neilson – A printer in Quebec City, he was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada, and opposed the Union, and was elected speaker of the 1st Parliament of the Province of Canada.
- Louis-Joseph Papineau – speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada and leader of the Parti Canadien, and later an elected member of the new united Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada. He was one of the writers of the Ninety-Two Resolutions, a list of demands for political reforms in the British-governed colony.
- Louis-Alexandre Taschereau – 14th Premier of the province of Quebec, from 1920-1936
- Robert Bourassa – 22nd Premier of Quebec
- Eugène-Étienne Taché – assistant commissioner of Crown Lands for Quebec who created Quebec’s provincial coat-of-arms and motto ‘Je me souviens.’
- René Lévesque – a minister of the government of Quebec and then 23rd Premier of Quebec whose signature achievement was the Quebec Charter of the French Language (“Bill 101”) with the goal to make French “the normal and everyday language of work, instruction, communication, commerce and business.”\
There is so much more I could include. Each mural is like it’s own history book once I started delving in to who pictured and why, and even the significance of the locations used in the image. It’s fascinating stuff – if you get into the stories of history like I do. If not, just enjoy the gorgeous artwork, and the beauty they add to the city!
Map of the murals of Quebec City:
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