Where Montréal Began
On May 17, 2017, 375 years after Montréal was founded and following 15 years of archaeological research, Pointe-à-Callière opened its seventh pavilion – and the city’s most important heritage legacy project for its 375th anniversary – at a solemn and highly symbolic ceremony unveiling the site where the city was founded.
The Fort Ville-Marie – Québecor Pavilion houses a new exhibition, Where Montréal Began, paying vibrant tribute to Paul de Chomedey de Maisonneuve and Jeanne Mance, from the very start of their venture inspired by the dream of founding a mission, converting the Indigenous people to Christianity and building a new society. The exhibition opens with an installation evoking the first Mass celebrated here, and introduces each of the other settlers who also chose to leave France for the New World, inspired by their religious faith. A projection fills the space and creates an atmosphere evoking Montréal Island when the settlement was founded.
The tour route will then lead visitors across a glass floor overlooking the remains of Fort Ville-Marie unearthed during the different archaeological dig campaigns conducted by the Museum from 2002 to 2015. They include traces of an Indigenous fire pit pre-dating the city’s founding, a well dug by Jacques Archambault in 1658, the cellar of what may have been a guardhouse, some of the fort’s palisades, the stone foundations of a metal-working shop, and part of a stone wall from Callière's Residence.
Numerous artifacts found during the digs will also be displayed: a sundial etched into a piece of slate – the oldest ever found in North America – along with other objects reflecting religious practices and everyday life, munitions and gun parts, as well as trade goods. Objects left behind by First Nations peoples will also tell of the relations between the French and various nations, mainly the Algonquins, Hurons and Iroquois. Lastly, a bronze bell will be installed atop the new pavilion to echo the one that hung in the Fort Ville-Marie chapel in 1642. It was rung for the first time on May 17, 2017 – 375 years to the day after Montréal was founded.