This post is linked to Ludwig Keck’s Monday Windows
Have you ever been to a church library? No, not the type where you check out Bibles and Sunday School Manuals, but a real library – located in a church – featuring the likes of Clive Cussler, Jamie Oliver, and Peppa Pig. You’ll find several of these church/libraries in Quebec, and if you’re visiting you’ll want to check them out.
Apparently organized religion is on the wane in Canada and many magnificent old meeting houses are becoming obsolete. Last year in Quebec alone, 434 churches fell into disuse, and that’s up from 270 last year.
The good news is that rather than destroy these beautiful structures, the citizens of Quebec have come to the rescue. While it costs millions for a makeover, many churches of historical importance have been reimagined into theatres, cultural centers and best of all – libraries.
In the perfect blend of inspiration and education, one can now sit in divine tranquility among stained glass windows and soaring ceilings while enjoying a favorite book, or maybe even writing one of your own.
If you’ve followed the Library Lady for long, you’ll know I love cool and unusual libraries. So when my travels took me to Quebec, church/libraries were on my agenda. I found three – two right next door to each other – and another one 10 minutes away, and while I was thrilled at my good fortune, I couldn’t help but wonder why all these churches were available.
My favorite, the Maison de La Litterature is particularly striking with its glowing white interior. Thanks to the immense leaded glass windows, the building is infused with light and lifts your spirits as you enter.
One of the more interesting aspects of the Maison is the bar near the entrance. A bottle of beer in the reading room? Maybe it’s just me, but this seems wrong for so many reasons. First of all, I know from years as a Library Lady that books and liquids don’t mix. Neither do churches and alcohol, or loud drunks in libraries. On the other hand, if this is a fundraiser for the library, I have to admire someone’s ingenuity. It’s certainly a novel way to raise money for new books.
While the bar is an unusual feature, the fact that churches are now home to secular books is another twist of irony. In the 19th century, the Canadian clergy forced public librarians to remove books that were deemed a threat to piety. Now those same books rest in peace on the church bookshelves.
This next church had a totally different atmosphere. More dark wood and stained glass. The exterior is distinctly middle ages, with mossy stone walls and a towering spire. There’s also a cemetery on the grounds surrounded by ancient trees. The lovely interior is highlighted by stained glass windows and a baptismal font.
The best part is the ceiling. This library feels dignified and reverent, It’s the perfect place to ponder the complexities of the universe or study for tomorrow’s final.
The Stairway to Heaven? Not really, but it’ll take you to the auto repair manuals on the second floor. There’s even a book drop in the front door.
This last library is a little different. The Morrin Center has worn a lot of hats over the years, but it began as a monastery and now serves as a cultural center and library.
There are more church/libraries in Quebec. I would have loved to see the Monique-Corriveau, a more modern building with lofty angles and a showy exterior, but my time was limited.
So here’s my question, and maybe somebody out there has the answer. Why are so many Churches in Quebec and Canada falling into disuse? Is it just a general lack of interest in religion? A tour guide suggested that Canadians were once compelled to go to church and now that they’re free to choose they avoid organized religion?
Whatever the case, I think this is an interesting phenomenon, and something I’d love to hear from my readers about. Why are Canadians skipping church?
Thankfully, some of these beautiful buildings are being spared, but it’s hard to think about all the others that didn’t make the cut.
If you’re ever in Quebec and want to visit some cool libraries, here’s how.
Closed ⋅ Opens 10AM · +1 418-641-6797
Closed ⋅ Opens 10AM · +1 418-641-6798
Québec, QC G1R 4H3, Canada
Quebec City, Quebec, Canada
This post is linked to Monday Windows – for more beautiful windows and fun posts pop on over.
Also, for a knock-your-socks-off article about Ancient Ethiopian Churches read Donna’s article at Born With Gypsy Shoes.
Here’s another fun post by Bluesyemre about cool library restorations in Chicago