HISTORY OF THE SEMINARY OF QUEBEC (SME)
A SOCIETY OF DIOCESAN PRIESTS
founded in 1663



 

The Seminary of Québec was founded on March 26, 1663 by Blessed François de Laval, first bishop of Québec, and is a Congregation or Society of Diocesan priests living as a religious order under the authority of the Bishop of Quebec which is called their "Visitor".

The Society of priests of the Seminary has devoted itself, first and foremost, to the service of parishioners and to the formation of future priests.

In 1668, by request of King Louis the 13th who wanted to convert the Amerindians to the French culture and language, the founder inaugurated a residence for students studying at the Jesuit College.  Seven young Canadians were the first group to live at this residence.  Six young Huron boys joined them a short time later and, on October 9, 1665, the entire group moved into the house of Madame Couillard, the ruins of which can be found in the courtyard of the Vieux Séminaire.  However, this Royal policy was not a success and the last young Huron boy left the Pétit Séminaire in 1673, at the request of his parents.  The Petit Séminaire de Québec remained a residence for young people who were preparing themselves to enter the Grand Séminaire. 

After the English Conquest of 1759, it became a college that taught the humanities and philosophy, therefore replacing the Jesuit College that the English authorities had requisitioned as barracks.  The first classes began in the fall of 1765 and included 28 students, of which 13 where day pupils.  So, the Petit Séminaire de Québec, founded in 1668, was transformed into a college modeled after that of the Jesuits. Gradually withdrawing themselves from parish and mission work, the priests of the Seminary took on the role of educators.
 
The priests of the Seminary became researchers, men of science, administrators and scholars.  Many like Father Holmes greatly marked the evolution of Québec Society and French America.   In 1852, the Seminary of Québec, having become renown for its expertise in the field of education, extended its sphere of activity to higher education and founded Laval University thanks to the Royal Charter received from Queen Victoria on December 8 of that same year.  The priests of the Seminary were in charge of Laval University until a new corporation took over in 1970.  The Musée de l’Amerique française brings the collections of the Seminary of Québec together, collections that had been accumulated over the years to meet the particular needs associated with their mission.  This rich heritage vastly grew during the 19th century, when the Seminary founded Laval University as it put together numerous collections according to their own means and circumstances of the time.  Thus, the priests of the Seminary became intimately associated with the preservation and diffusion of the French culture under all its forms.  Today the Seminary, just as active as always, is once again involving itself in parish life.  It participates in the continuing education of priests and in the evangelisation of young adults, runs summer camps at Cap Tourmente at Saint-Joachim, while all the time continuing to insure the formation of future priests at the Grand Séminaire de Québec (Major Seminary) and at the Petit Séminaire diocésain de Québec (Minor Seminary).

Old door of the Seminary of Quebec 

The sign SME, which stands for “Séminaire des Missions-Étrangères”, is still used today and takes us back to the origins of the Seminary.  In 1663, Blessed François de Laval signed the request for the affiliation of the Seminary with the Séminaire des Missions-Étrangères de Paris.  He was granted his request in 1665.  This affiliation lasted until the English Conquest. Eleven superiors were then appointed to the Seminary of Québec by the Séminaire des Missions-Étrangères de Paris. 

Therefore, after the English Conquest, another chapter began in the Seminary’s history.  The monogram SME continues to be used today as a sign of inheritance but also as a reminder of the Seminary’s vocation amidst today’s new social and cultural contexts.  This monogram can still be seen at the top of the gate of the Vieux-Séminaire, located at 1, côte de la Fabrique in Old Québec.

The Seminary includes a vast number of buildings, some of which date back to the 17th century and are witnesses of the French occupation, while the others were constructed anywhere from the 18th to the 20th century.  The ensemble is made up of two groups of buildings: the Vieux-Séminaire constructed under the model of 17th century French colleges and whose inner court is absolutely remarkable and the second group of buildings that have been added over the years to meet the needs of Laval University, the Grand Séminaire and the Pétit Séminaire that has now become the Collège François de Laval, whose most important buildings are the Camille-Roy pavilion and the Jean-Olivier-Briand pavilion.  The Camille-Roy pavilion has several pinnacles on which continuously fly the flag of the coat of arms of its founder, Mgr de Laval, and the Jean-Olivier-Briand pavilion houses the priest’s residence and the Grand Séminaire.
 
Séminaire de Québec
1 rue des Remparts
Québec (Québec)
G1R 5L7

Website : www.seminairedequebec.org



This text has been written by Father Hermann Giguère , Superior General of the "Société des prêtres du Séminaire de Québec" (SME), a community of diocesan priests founded by Blessed François de Laval, and this translation was made possible by the gracious help of "Corporation du patrimoine et du tourisme religieux de Québec".


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Last updated January 3th 2009