Have you ever been overwhelmed by emotion that you just couldn’t hold back your tears? Not sobbing or crying, but uncontrollable tears running down your cheeks. I have. I was recently taken aback by the harmonies of seven nuns signing in a chapel. It happened in the Coeur of the Monastère des Augustines at 7:36 on the morning of February 24, 2016. It was the culminating point to one of the most emotion-filled experiences of my life.
I recently spent 24 hours at the Monastère des Augustines in the hearth of Quebec City, on the exact site where the continent’s first hospital north of Mexico was created. It is where the Augustinian Sisters devoted themselves to caring for body and soul, while laying the foundation for our modern healthcare system.
The Monastère was recently restored into a holistic retreat center with accommodation services. A near-transcendental experience where the Augustinian Sisters’ remarkable heritage is at the center of it all. A lieu where calm, serenity, history and modernity all meet in perfect harmony; the ideal surrounding to develop and connect with your own emotions and senses.
Attention to detail
From the modern architectural design to the intricate display of antique furniture, all the way to the local products offered in the rooms and the restaurant, every little detail is considered a way to enhance the wellness experience. All the rooms have Oneka beauty products from Frelishburg in the Eastern Townships, the beds of the authentic rooms -where the sisters once lived- are made by local blacksmiths and feature a colourful quilt signed by the artists who wove them. The contemporary rooms are as its connotation, more modern, have a private bathroom and as comfortable and quiet as any other room of the Monastère.
Local produce shine
On the restaurant’s menu, Chef Christophe Perny features local products including partridge, walleye and seasonal vegetables. A refrigerator dedicated to vegetable sprouts and herbs is exposed at the entrance of the restaurant. What a beautiful way to set the tone for quality. Dinner ends with herbal tea, inspired by the archives of the Augustinian Sisters, which reveal the use of spices and fruit for the preparation of tonics. Properly marketed under the name The Apothecary’s Herbal Teas, these healthy infusions are organic and absolutely delicious. These herbal teas as well as the Oneka beauty products are available to buy at the Monastère’s boutique. You’ll also fin the delicious boreal Épicéa vinaigrettes and the Ikuko meditation bench used in the yoga classes.
My visit of the Musée des Augustines made me fall in love with the work of the Augustinian Sisters. They not only devoted their life to healing the body and soul of all and any humans in Nouvelle France, but they were administrators, designers and democrats. They are our very first feminists! Their life’s work should be taught to all.
An Important Legacy
I am not a religious person, though I was raised catholic. I believe in spirituality, in Nature as Ralph W. Emmerson saw it and in William Blake’s vision of us all having our own God within. Yes, I studied the 19th century romantics in University. I also believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution.
My experience at the Monastère des Augustines has taught me to open my heart to those who devote their lives to a higher spirit and to look closer at their accomplishments. On this day, there are only seven Sisters left and the Monastère des Augustines exists so that their legacy lives on. No matter your culture or belief, le Monastère des Augustines is the ideal environment to rest and discover an important part of Quebec’s history.
** SIDE NOTE: When I spoke to my grandmother about my experience, she mentioned having someone in our family who was a Sister; she thinks maybe even an Augustinian Sister. Est-ce un hasard de la vie?