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For over 375 years, the Augustinian Sisters have been the guardians of unsuspected treasures. Thanks to the heritage preserved in the archive centre and the museum reserve, Le Monastère is one of today’s unique places of remembrance as well as an unparalleled location for research into the history of the Augustinian Sisters and Quebec society.
The legacy of a community of pioneers
The Augustinian Sisters’ archives document the evolution of healthcare, social development, community life and the founding of twelve hospitals in Quebec since the early days of the colony. Some 50,000 artifacts are kept in the museum reserve. It houses medical and pharmaceutical instruments, furniture, artwork, church ornaments, everyday items related to crafts or traditional skills, and many other reminders of the past.
With the help of dedicated partners, a major project for digitizing Le Monastère’s archives and artifacts and preserving them online has been ongoing since 2016. These pieces of the past are now accessible to all, and we hope that they will keep inspiring future generations. Come discover these treasures and step into the history of the Augustinian Sisters!
In founding twelve monastery-hospitals, the Augustinian Sisters laid the foundations of Quebec’s modern-day healthcare system. They also had a hand in its growth and in community life in the areas where they worked with dedication as owners and managers of hospitals, and as nurses and pharmacists.
The Augustinian Sisters’ vocation was largely defined by choosing monastery life to care for the sick and those in need. These selfless women dedicated their lives to caring for the people of Quebec. They played an active role in the development of modern medicine.
The Augustinian Sisters are heirs to traditions perpetuated by brotherhoods founded in the teachings of Saint Augustine. Loving God and your neighbour are the basis of their spirituality, made manifest in a life of prayer and mercy for the sick and the poor.
The Augustinian Sisters have been looking for practical means of supporting their mission ever since their arrival in New France. Owning land allowed them to produce essential food for themselves and for the sick and were also a source of income that they used to build their hospitals. They worked their land and had several structures built: chapels, hospitals, monasteries, farms and more.
The Augustinian Sisters’ correspondence holds a wealth of information on their way of life, their values and more generally on the important events of the last 375 years. Their letters tell us about their relationships with each other and with the important figures of their era.
Many Augustinian Sisters were brilliant managers. To carry out their charities, they managed portfolios in both investments and loans. Account books, invoices, receipts, contracts and other documents mark difficult times and how they made it through them.
From the start of the 20th century, the Augustinian Sisters founded a nursing school at the Hôtel-Dieu de Québec and followed suit later in their other hospitals. Starting in the 18th century, over several decades, the Augustinian Sisters of the Hôpital général were responsible for educating young resident women.
The Augustinian Sisters’ culinary heritage is quite diverse. The archives provide insight on supply, famine and shortage issues, farm management, monastery kitchen organization, food for the sick, herb gardening and, importantly, the Sisters’ recipe book.
To unwind, the Sisters gathered for evenings of knitting or embroidery. Over time, those activities gave way to entertainment like sports and playing cards. Anniversaries of religious life were marked with theatre and singing.
Throughout their history, the Augustinian Sisters have worked abroad: in South Africa at the end of the 19th century and in Tunisia, Lebanon and Haiti over the latter half of the 20th century. In 1961, they founded a community in Paraguay that is still active today.
The Augustinian Sisters’ priceless audiovisual heritage documents the traditions and practices of this vital women’s religious community. An audiovisual document inventory is now available to all. Available in English and in French.