The year 2014 marks the 350th anniversary of the Notre-Dame de Québec parish, the oldest Catholic parish in North America. Monsignor François de Laval, who arrived in Quebec City in 1659 as the vicar apostolic, signed the decree for the establishment of the parish on September 15, 1664, in honour of the “Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.” However, the common name “Notre-Dame,” in reference to the Virgin Mary, was quickly adopted by the inhabitants of the city. The church, located on the Cap-aux-Diamants promontory, was opened for worship in 1650. Over the years, it has undergone many alterations, including renovations, expansions and reconstructions.
The Diocese of Quebec was created in 1674. Monsignor de Laval was appointed bishop of the enormous diocese, which covered a large part of North America. The parish church became a cathedral and was the base of the Catholic Church in North America until 1817, when the Halifax and Kingston dioceses were created.
The 350th anniversary is being celebrated in a special way with the opening of a Holy Door, a symbol of humility and a rare privilege granted by the Holy See. The Holy Door is the seventh in the world and the first in North America. It will remain open until December 28, 2014.
Library and Archives Canada has historical records on the Notre-Dame de Québec parish, including many iconographic representations of the church in different eras. The Notre-Dame Catholic parish fonds (Quebec City) contains baptismal, marriage and burial records, as well as various parish censuses conducted in 1744 and between 1792 and 1815.