Sulpician Towers / Fort de la Montagne National Historic Site of Canada
© Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada.
2065 Sherbrooke Street West, Montréal, Quebec
Historic Sites and Monuments Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. H-4)
1694 to 1694
Event, Person, Organization:
M. François Vachon de Belmont
Marguerite de Bourgeoys
Nuns of the Congregation of Notre-Dame
Sulpician Towers / Fort de la Montagne
Research Report Number:
Existing plaque: 2065 Sherbrooke Street West, Montréal, Quebec
These two towers are the only intact elements of Fort de la Montagne, built by Sulpician François Vachon de Belmont in the 1680s. The fort was constructed to protect the site of the Sulpician mission established here to evangelise First Nations. The west tower housed Marguerite Bourgeoys’ school, while the east tower was the residence of the nuns of the Notre-Dame Congregation. From the turn of the 18th century, the fort was used as a retreat by the Sulpicians. Beginning in 1854, it was partially demolished to accomodate the Grand Séminaire, leaving only the towers, which are among the oldest stone structures on the island of Montréal.
Description of Historic Place
Sulpician Towers / Fort de la Montagne National Historic Site of Canada is located on Sherbrooke Street West, in downtown Montréal, Quebec. The site is comprised of two two-storey 13-metre high stone towers, built in 1694, that were part of the original Fort de la Montagne. They each have one entrance and a single door with square panes on the north side, above which is a single multi-paned window. Both towers have eight-sided conical roofs topped with a cross. In addition, the west tower is topped by a weathervane. Official recognition refers to the two towers on their footprints.
Sulpician Towers / Fort de la Montagne was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1970 because: these two towers were once the bastions of a fort built at the end of the 17th century by M. de Belmont for the Sulpicians of the neighbouring Indian mission of Notre-Dame-des-Neiges; the west tower housed the school of Marguerite Bourgeoys, and the east tower, the nuns of the Congregation.
Around 1676, the Sulpicians of Montréal Island founded a mission, known as the Mission de la Montagne, intended for the instruction of local aboriginals and their conversion to Catholicism. In 1681, M. François Vachon de Belmont was named a superior of the mission which housed over 200 Iroquois, Hurons and Algonquins living in cabins within the fort.
In 1694, a stone fort composed of four towers connected by a stone enclosure wall, was constructed to protect the new mission. The towers were built with gun-ports for the defence of the fort; however, they acted as a deterrent and were never used. In fact, the Sisters of the Congregation of Notre-Dame used the southwest tower for a school and the southeast tower as a residence for the nuns of the Congregation. With the increasing departure of the aboriginals between 1692 and 1705, the southeast tower was transformed into a chapel (1824) and the northwest and northeast towers were demolished.
Sources: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, 1970; November 2008
Key elements contributing to the heritage value of this site include: the original location of the towers on the actual Sherbrooke Street West, in downtown Montréal, Quebec; its setting in front of the Collège de Montréal; the circular form and massing of the two 13-metre high towers; the stone construction of the towers, pierced with gun-holes, that were originally an integral part of Fort de la Montagne; the eight-sided conical roofs, covered with cedar shingles and topped with a cross; the multi-paned doors and windows; the weathervane atop the west tower; the spatial relationship between the towers and the architectural remains of the fort, including parts of the curtain wall, foundations of the chapel and the horseshoe shaped front steps, and a vault; viewscapes from the site to the original location of Fort de la Montagne.