The Monastere du Bon-Pasteur in Montreal. The structure suffered a major fire, May 25, 2023, and was extensively damaged. Wikipedia

Historic former Montreal monastery destroyed by fire

  • June 1, 2023

A massive fire that began on the afternoon of May 25 and burned for two days inflicted extensive damage to a historic former monastery in Montreal that itself once provided shelter for those left homeless after the Great Fire in 1852.

Though the Archdiocese of Montreal has not had a formal connection to the building for decades, spokesperson Erika Jacinto noted  the fire was a “huge drama affecting an important heritage building in Montreal.”

It took 150 firefighters 42 hours to bring the blaze under control. About 50 people remain in temporary accommodation as a result of being driven from their apartments in the edifice. An assessment of the total damage and the investigation into the cause of the fire is underway.

Once the home of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, the Monastère du Bon-Pasteur is one of the many gray, limestone 19th-century edifices that characterize the Montreal cityscape. St. Patrick’s Basilica, the home to Catholic English-speaking Montrealers, saw its first Mass celebrated in 1847, the year after construction began at the monastery.

The Sisters of the Good Shepherd, a community founded in Angers, France, with the charism of caring for vulnerable girls, were invited to Quebec by Bishop Ignace Bourget in 1844. For close to 115 years, the nuns used the Sherbrooke Street building as the centre for their works of service and education.

Within a few short years, the nuns established the convent as a neighbourhood refuge. It served as such during the 1847 typhus epidemic, the 1849 cholera epidemic and the 1852 fire that destroyed almost half of the city’s housing.

In 1961, the congregation established a new provincial house in suburban Pierrefonds, and 15 years later the convent was sold to a Montreal housing association. That same year, the monastery received its designation as a heritage building.

In 1984, Heritage Montreal, the organization responsible for saving the city’s iconic Guaranteed Pur Milk water-tower, purchased the building. Heritage Quebec converted the former convent to a multi-use facility which came to house a residence for the elderly, a housing coop, a daycare centre and the organization’s own offices and archives. The monastery’s chapel, constructed in 1878, became a concert hall widely appreciated for its fine acoustics.

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