This Week in History


Montréal Bound

For the week of Monday May 6, 2002

On May 8, 1642, Paul de Chomedey de Maisonneuve and Jeanne Mance left Québec City, bound for Île de Montréal (the Island of Montréal). Their objective was to establish the missionary colony of Ville-Marie there. Driven by their extraordinary faith and courage, they were prepared for the many challenges involved in carrying out this project.

Jeanne Mance - foundress of the Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal

Jeanne Mance - foundress of the Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal
© Stained glass window by F. Chicot in Notre-Dame Church /
LAC / C-003202

Jeanne Mance arrived in New France in August 1641. Maisonneuve, delayed by a difficult crossing, met her there in the fall. They both spent the winter in Québec City, where many regarded their colonization plan in Montréal as a doomed enterprise. Although Governor Montmagny encouraged them to settle close to Québec City on Île d'Orléans, Maisonneuve insisted that he would go to Montréal "even if all the trees on the island were to turn into Iroquois."

On May 17, 1642, Jeanne Mance and Maisonneuve arrived at Île de Montréal, accompanied by a few dozen settlers, including some women. They built a fort, a community house and a small chapel. Jeanne Mance, the colony's first lay nurse, devoted herself to caring for the sick from the time she arrived. The experience she acquired in France tending to the wounded in the Thirty Years' War helped her care for the settlers. She also managed the finances, supplies and provisions for Ville-Marie. Thanks to Madame de Bullion, a wealthy Parisian woman wishing to fund a charitable organization in New France, Jeanne Mance founded a hospital in 1643. The construction of the Hôtel-Dieu, Montréal's first hospital, began in 1645.

Ville-Marie in 1642 (Québec)

Ville-Marie in 1642 (Québec)
© LAC / C-007885

Known for his piety, Maisonneuve was chosen by the Société de Notre-Dame de Montréal, an order comprised of devout people who supported the Ville-Marie missionary project, to serve as the young colony's governor. From 1643 onward, he was faced with a major problem: the Iroquois raids. These attacks intensified in 1651, threatening the survival of the Montréal settlement. With the help of Jeanne Mance, who offered some of the funds intended for Hôtel-Dieu, Maisonneuve returned to France and came back with one hundred soldiers.

Jeanne Mance and Maisonneuve took turns returning to France to look after the interests of Ville-Marie. After serving as governor for 24 years, Maisonneuve was called back to France in 1665. He died in Paris in 1676. Jeanne Mance remained on the island until her death in 1673. Paul de Chomedey de Maisonneuve and Jeanne Mance, co-founders of Ville-Marie that later became Montréal, have been designated as persons of national historic significance.

For more information ont the foundation of Montréal, visit the Old Montréal Web site.

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