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Saint-Sulpice Library


The Saint-Sulpice Library was designed by architect Eugène Payette and constructed between 1912 and 1914 at the request of the Sulpician priests to serve as a University Library for researchers, students and for the education of Montreal’s youth while supporting Catholic thoughts. As Montreal’s most important French library, the new Beaux-Arts style building was located in the neighborhood of the French-speaking elite of the city.


Saint Sulpice Library - 1915              (Archives de la Ville de Montréal)
Saint Sulpice Library – 1915 (Archives de la Ville de Montréal)

At its opening in 1915, the library’s collection consisted of 80 000 books from the Sulpicians’ libraries and from the Faculty of arts of Montreal’s Université Laval.Montreal’s Archbishop Paul Bruchési, attended the inauguration alongside Canon Lecoq, superior of Montreal’s Sulpicians, the lieutenant governor of Quebec Sir Pierre-Évariste Leblanc and Quebec’s premier Sir Lomer Gouin.


In spite of the opening in 1917 of a public library by the Municipal council, Montreal’s Catholic elite continued to favor the Saint-Sulpice Library as a place of discussions and encounters. Surprisingly, these two competing institutions were both designed by the same architect: Eugène Payette.


Saint Sulpice Library - 2015                         (Photo: Dick NIeuwendyk)
Saint Sulpice Library – 2015 (Photo: Dick NIeuwendyk)

Faced with financial difficulties in the 1930’s, the Sulpicians were forced to close the doors of their library which would be acquired in 1941 by the Government of Quebec. The library continued to welcome researchers until the inauguration of La Grande Bibliothèque in 2005, where the Saint-Sulpice collection is now available. In 2005 the Université du Québec à Montréal bought the building, but had to sell it back to the ministry of culture in 2007, due to financial reasons. In 2009 the building became Le Vivier, a music centre ran by 22 Quebec music groups. From 2009 to 2010, Le Vivier presented its first season of 15 concerts. In 2016, it was announced the building will be renovated and converted to a new technology incubator and library for teens. The project will include space for artists and young entrepreneurs including a laboratory that focuses on digital education. The space will be modernized, while preserving its architectural features. The Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec will oversee the library’s operations, working closely with schools and universities.


L’Incubateur will open in 2017, in time for Montreal’s 375th anniversary, filling thecorridors and chairs with teens, this time using computers instead of books.


The Saint-Sulpice Library was designated a Historic Monument of Quebec in 1988. and is located at 1700 Saint Denis Street in Montreal.


Source: Archives de la Ville de Montréal / Heritage Montréal / Montreal Gazette

By: Dick Nieuwendyk – mtltimes.ca


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