previous page | index | next page


Our meanderings amongst the statues in the Parc Montmorency as described on the previous page are enough to drive anyone up the wall and so I return to the fortifications at the far end of the park. This is the rue des Remparts and its fine collection of 18th- and early 19th-century artillery.

artillery rue des remparts ville de quebec city canada avril april 2012 copyright free photo royalty free photo

Many people consider these pieces of artillery to be a marvellous static display of historical artefacts and a fine reminder of the city's glorious past, but it is a little-known fact that the Québec city authorities do their best to maintain them properly and in good working order.

If ever the British Fleet decides to pay a goodwill visit to the city, then the 21-gun salute given to the British fleet by the city will be like no other 21-gun salute given to the British Fleet by any other city in the Commonwealth.

The rue des Remparts was in the past not a street at all. Until 1875 or so, it was simply a footpath than went around this part of the walls connecting some of the bastions and artillery batteries with each other.

However, Lord Dufferin, about whom I promise you that we will talk in early course, in his city improvement schemes, had the path converted into something of a (rather narrow) road.

maison montcalm house rue des remparts ville de quebec city canada avril april 2012 copyright free photo royalty free photo

Ahhh - now this is what I was hoping to see down here. These three buildings are n°s 45, 47 and 49 rue des Remparts and the middle one, the first to be constructed (in 1725 as it happens) was the home of General Montcalm from December 1758 until his death.

The buildings were originally just single-storey buildings but Montcalm's house was raised in 1810 and the others were raised likewise 20 years later

bastion montcalm centre d'interpretation, ville de quebec city canada avril april 2012 copyright free photo royalty free photo

Where I'm standing to take the above photo is what became known as the Bastion Montcalm - so-called because when Wolfe was adressing his troops prior to the successful attack on the city he said "make sure that you capture that Bastion Montcalm" ... "are you sure about this?" - ed.

If I turn around and show you the view that there is from here, you'll see the importance of this site, with its commanding view over the old port and the mouth of the Rivière St Charles.

You may remember from yesterday afternoon that I was over there looking up to this spot. You can see the Centre d'Interpretation that we saw in one of those photos from yesterday, and you'll also see the railway locomotive that I shot (with the Nikon D5000, not one of the cannons from the rue des Remparts) yesterday.

old post office gare du palais ville de quebec city canada avril april 2012 copyright free photo royalty free photo

We saw those buildings over there from up on the walls near the Porte St Jean but from here at the Bastion Montcalm I reckon that I have more of an idea of what they might be.

The extremely-imposing building in the Nouvelle France style is another one of the old post offices, and the other less-elaborate building to the left is the Gare du Palais - the Palace Railway Station.

nouvelles casernes ville de quebec city canada avril april 2012 copyright free photo royalty free photo

Continuing our little walk around the fortifications we end up at what are known as the nouvelles casernes, the "new barracks", so named for a reason that will soon become apparent.

That building that you can see down at the end on the right served as a shell factory, making munitions for World War I. Just imagine the devastation if that lot had gone off, as did the one at Silvertown in London.

So with the walls of the fortification to our right and the wall of the arsenal to our left we are standing in what is called a meurtrier - a "death-trap".

You'll notice that these walls are sheer and maybe 30 or 40 feet high and so any attacker who successfully stormed the outer wall and dropped down to the inside would find that he couldn't climb back out again.

He would be trapped like a rat in a barrel where defenders at other points on the fortifications could pick him off at their leisure.

nouvelles casernes arsenal ville de quebec city canada avril april 2012 copyright free photo royalty free photo

From further around the corner of the fortifications you can see the other side of the nouvelles casernes and the arsenal, and appreciate the work that has gone into building them.

Designed by Chaussegros de Léry, who we met when discussing the citadel earler , the range of buildings was constructed in 1750 when a whole residential quarter of the city was swept away, and is 160 metres long. Somewhere in there are, apart from the soldiers' quarters, an arsenal, a weapon-store, a guardhouse and a small prison with 6 cells.

The military moved out in the 1870s and in 1879 the site became an armaments factory after some reconstruction work. In 1964 the site was abandoned and fell into decay but in 1972 a project was launched to bring back some of the former glory to the area. 40 years further on, and there's still a bit to do.

This is certainly the business end of the fortifications, but my little topographical eye would certainly not have chosen this site for an arsenal.

Not at all.

Do you remember right at the beginning of our walk when I discussed the perils of building walls on sloping ground, and the ease of firing over them from a higher point outside the walls ?

I would have put the arsenal at the highest point of the area within the walls, right in the shadow of the defences of the citadel, out of reach of the artillery of any attackers outside the walls. One fused artillery shell fired into the buildings down here from the highest point of land outside the walls and this lot would go up like Joan of Arc and take half of the city with it.

palais redoubt ville de quebec city canada avril april 2012 copyright free photo royalty free photo

This is the Palais Redoubt at the extreme northern edge of the fortifications. It's a corner tower which, in its heyday, overhung the corner of the city walls - the corners of a fortification being the weakest point of the defences where undermining would certainly pay the most dividends.

Being an overhung tower, it featured a hole in the floor. If any mining party did approach the corner with a view to undermining the defences, the defenders up above could drop heavy stones, boiling fat and all that kind of thing onto the miners below.

A tower such as this would be a good sniping point for the defenders against any attackers who had penetrated the defences elsewhere, taking them from behind, and it would usually be well-stocked with supplies, being the rallying point for a stand to the last man against a force of attackers within the perimeter of the city walls.

It doesn't matter how many hundreds, or thousands of attackers there might be, you couldn't get more than two at a time down that passage there and a small but resolute defensive force could hold out there indefinitely as long as they had sufficient supplies.

In fact, nowhere is this better-demonstrated than at the Fort de Vaux on the outskirts of Verdun (in France, not Montreal). As the German Army penetrated the entrance tunnel in June 1916, a small force of defenders held them off for almost a week. The only reason they surrendered was that as they were slowly pushed backwards, they lost control of the ammunition depot, the food store and the water tank and so were starved out.

In later times, the Palais Redoubt became the home of the city's executioner - in fact you might even say that this is where the executioner hung out. It goes without saying that he wouldn't be the most popular of citizens and a home somewhat isolated from the rest of the townsfolk would be much more to his taste.

I mentioned the nouvelle caserne a few times, which has made you wonder, I'm sure, about the ancienne caserne.

artillery park anciennes casernes dauphine redoubt ville de quebec city canada avril april 2012 copyright free photo royalty free photo

We're still in Artillery Park, which is what this area is called, and these footings that you can see just here are part of the Dauphine Redoubt. This was to have been part of the defensive wall of 1712 but which came to a halt after the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 which brought peace - albeit temporarily - to North America.

As an aside, I should mention that the city's defences were built on four occasions by the French, 1690, 1693, 1712 and 1745, the latter works being instigated following the loss to the British of the major French coastal fortress at Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island and of course there are the numerous times that the British worked on these defences subsequently.

You can see from all of this just how unstable the military situation was in North America and probably still is today, with the people on the southern side of Canada's border currently in the grip of a most extraordinary national paranoia. Putting a weapon into the hands of a paranoiac is never a good idea, as any therapist will tell you, but over there they are swimming in weapons. No wonder the rest of the world is so concerned.

artillery park anciennes casernes dauphine redoubt ville de quebec city canada avril april 2012 copyright free photo royalty free photo

In the previous photograph we caught a glimpse of some beautiful lime-washed stone buildings. These are the anciennes casernes, the "former barracks" and were originally intended to form part of the Dauphine Redoubt.

They were originally single-storied but were raised in height by the British, who also reinforced them defensively during one of their periods of work on the fortifications.

Once again, I'm glad I came here to do this in April before the leaves appeared on the trees.

I have mentioned Lord Dufferin on several occasions and I promised you that I would talk about him at some point during our walk around the fortifications. Right now would seem to be as good a time as any.

Frederick, the Marquess of Dufferin, to give him his full title, was Governor-General of Canada during the period 1872-1878 and his arrival here followed the departure of the British forces which had occurred in 1871.

Immediately on the departure of the British troops, a movement had sprung up to sweep away all of the fortifications in order to ease the movement of people and traffic in and around the city. By the time Lord Dufferin arrived, some demolition had already been undertaken and several of the gates had already disappeared.

It has been said that Lord Dufferin had been greatly influenced by the New Romantic movement that had swept Europe, but whether or not that was the case, he was of the opinion that the fortifications had a great deal to offer to the charm and splendour of Québec. Rather than them being an obstacle to the development of the city, he saw them as a focal point of the city.

He brought a halt to the demolitions and in 1875 presented a plan to the city that included inter alia the construction of some kind of centrepiece attraction - the Chateau Frontenac was the result of this - and the highlighting of the defences of the city.

This latter part of his initiative including the rebuilding of the gates that had been demolished, and the flattening of any contemporary building that was closer that 60 metres to the city walls.

This clearing of the approaches to the city walls enabled them to be viewed in all their magnificent splendour and, rather ironically, gave the place the appearance of one of those magnificent Medieval French city-fortresses of which Carcassonne is probably the best example.

My own opinion is that these city walls are the most complete that I have seen, certainly rivalling those of Chester (although of course the walls of Chester were originally constructed by the Romans some 1500 or so years earlier)

rue macmahon fortifications ville de quebec city canada avril april 2012 copyright free photo royalty free photo

Despite Lord Dufferin's efforts, we had to wait another 100 years and more for the reconstruction of the Prescott Gate, and that's built in a style that's nothing to write home about. Here at the rue McMahon, we are still waiting for something to be done.

This is something of a tragedy if you ask me. This is the only place on the entire circuit where one is obliged to step down from the fortifications and return to the 21st Century. High time the city fathers extricated their digits and did something about this.

The stone buildings that you can see in the background are the buildings of the Monastère de l'Hôtel-Dieu, an Augustinian monastery, or rather nunnery because it was founded in 1644 by three nuns as a hospital for the city.

Originally a wooden building (which, astonishingly, still survives despite everything else that has burnt down in Canada over the years), it's been gradually enlarged since 1695 by a series of stone buildings.

glacis fortifications revetement ditch ville de quebec city canada avril april 2012 copyright free photo royalty free photo

Most fortresses were built with a slope, or glacis leading up to the foot of the walls and quite often a ditch. This served to slow up the attackers so that they would lose the impetus of the charge and the defenders would have more time to take aim.

Lord Dufferin's clearance of buildings encroaching on the city walls has certainly paid dividends here because we can clearly see the ditch here which would certainly stop the impetus of any charging attacker.

I wouldn't have built the revetment of the ditch anything like as high as that, though. Standing on there, the angle of elevation at which the attackers would have to fire isn't sufficiently steep to slow up the speed of the bullet, and the defenders would have a much more difficult job to fire down onto the exposed heads of the attackers.

canadian shield bouclier canadien beauport riviere st charles ville de quebec city canada avril april 2012 copyright free photo royalty free photo

Ahhh - we must be reaching the end of our circuit of the fortification. Over there away in the background is the Canadian Shield - the Bouclier Canadien where I'll be tomorrow if all goes according to plan.

In the foreground is the eastern part of the city just across the Rivière St Charles. It's over there in Beauport where I'll be heading to pick up the Dodge again for I've left it at the motel where I stayed last night .

porte st jean ville de quebec city canada avril april 2012 copyright free photo royalty free photo

I've definitely completed the full circuit of the walls now because here I am back on the top of the Porte St Jean where I started my walk all that time ago.

And as I clamber up the stairs a very friendly neighbourhood church clock strikes midday and so I can tell you that according to my reckoning it's taken me just over two hours to do the tour of the wall and I can check that. ... "2 hours and 20 minutes exactly, to be precise" - ed ....

artillery park old foundry ville de quebec city canada avril april 2012 copyright free photo royalty free photo

In the previous photo you saw some beautiful military buildings just below us, and so before I went elsewhere I nipped down the stairs to have a closer look at them. We are of course still in Artillery Park, which crosses the rue McMahon, and that building just there is the Old Foundry

It's actually quite modern, built in 1903 so I was told, but its industrial function ceased a long time ago. Today it forms part of the museum on the site and contains a contemporary model of the city constructed by military engineers between 1806 and 1808 as well as all kinds of objects excavated from the site.

So there you are. A complete guided tour of the fortifications of the city. Now it's time to go for a poke around the town. But before I do, I reckon that I will just let you have a quick glance over my shoulder at what was behind me as I was taking the photograph above.

porte st jean chapel jesuits ville de quebec city canada avril april 2012 copyright free photo royalty free photo

We're back at the Porte St Jean, where we started our journey this morning of course and you will also have a good idea of how the fortifications look from the inside at this point along the walls. The church just up there is the Chapel of the Jesuits, built in 1820 and enlarged in 1857.

Of a more secular appeal, on the corner just in front of me is a Lebanese restaurant. I always like to make a note of places such as this because, being a vegan, I have to be very careful where I eat. Lebanese restaurants, where you can be guaranteed a good plate of falafel, and "real" Italian restaurants where they will serve up spaghetti, steamed vegetables and fresh tomato sauce, are always pretty reliable bets.

On top of the restaurant is a tattoo parlour, something that I really dislike to see. I just can't understand the appeal of tattoos and I really do wonder how many people in 10 years time are going to regret having disfigured their bodies. Of course, in the UK tattooing is rampant and that's another reason why I could never go back to live there.

Mind you - it's easy to spot a British intellectual these days. It's someone who has all of his tattoos correctly spelt.

back to top

next page



**** NEW ****


AND ...


page last modified 11:49 11th March 2017
site last modified