Thursday, November 8, 2012

City Walk # 146 The Fort Around the Corner

How many of you can boast of having a fort in your backyard?

Montreal is steeped like a teabag in history and culture. Take this, for instance. It's mere steps away from where I live, in the heart of the city:

Bastion # 1

Interior, seen through the little red door

Collège de Montréal, right behind it, founded in 1767

View down Fort Street, taken from the footprint of the original fort, looking down toward the St. Lawrence River

These are the two remaining bastions of Fort de la Montagne, also known as Fort des Messieurs de Saint Sulpice or Fort Belmont.

Bastion #2
Back in 1683, over 200 aboriginal people (Iroquois, Algonquins and Hurons) lived on this site, literally around the corner from my new flat. Then the Sulpicians showed up, and in order to protect themselves from Iroquois attack, the priests built this fort in 1685. Everything was destroyed in 1854 except these two towers which still stand today.

These towers, each 43 feet tall, were part of that mission, built under the direction of, and personally funded by, one François Vachon de Belmont, a wealthy Burgundian and Sulpician i.e., a member of the Society of St. Sulpice in France.

Sulpicians attest they were mostly concerned with the academic and spiritual formation of priests. They also played a major role in the formation of Montreal and bought huge tracts of land. They (and the government) out and out deceived the Mohawks and took their prime hunting land on the St. Lawrence River. The Mohawks had been established there since the 16th century, and other tribes can be traced back to over 1,000 years, so to have been conned out of it is something that rankles to this day.

(Kanehsatake remains a Mohawk settlement, one of the Seven Nations of Canada, and self-governed by the Mohawks. They continue to fight to maintain their rights to their land. The Oka Crisis is the most recent example of this ongoing battle. This was a 78 day stand-off brought triggered by the neighbouring town of Oka attempting to extend a private golf course not only over an old pine grove, but also a sacred burial ground. Not cool.)

Anyway, this explains the need for the bastions so the priests could have a little hide-out when things got heated.

My goal is to get inside one of them. And the chapel in behind. Not sure if that's allowed, but you know what they say - where's there's a Pam, there's a way.

I haven't even shown you the old section of Montreal yet. So much to see and do here in La Belle Province!


nightsmusic said...

Once again, I am so jealous! I would love to live in a walking city like that. I am though, less than 20 minutes from this!

And it's a splendid place to spend time. I just can't wake in the morning and walk out my door to it.

I'm so glad you're having fun. I worried about you a bit, making the transition, but it seems like it's all a great adventure for you and that's perfect. :o)

Debby said...

I love history, and I can't wait to hear how you get inside. Hopefully, they'll let you back out when you're done snapping your pictures.

A Novel Woman said...

NM, that's a very cool place to explore! Imagine, Ford and Edison's workshops! And Lincoln's office thrown in for good measure. Wow.

Debby, French Catholics love to erect fences to keep their people in, and outsiders OUT. Buddy and I did discover their secret garden and long narrow pond, despite the No Dogs sign. (Buddy can't read, so...)

nightsmusic said...

It's very cool and if you're ever in this area, I'll be happy to take you.

Did you take a picture of the garden and pond too? I'd love to see them. I'm visiting vicariously through your pictures ;o)

jeanie said...

How cool to have that (and the history) right there.

We are less than 20 minutes from some Kanaka Walls, although the history behind them is less generous to most participants. If you ever want to learn some horrible history, google Kanaka Walls and Blackbirding. Not something to be proud of.

A Novel Woman said...

I didn't have my camera with me yesterday but I'll go back. The garden has long gone to seed and there is a small forest there now, but the pond remains. I'll try to get over there before it freezes over and the two ducks with it!

A Novel Woman said...

Oh Jeanie, that about broke my heart. Such a terrible history, but not unique to your country. It happened here, and in the U.S. and other places around the world. What is it about man that drives him to enslave others? We also had residential schools here in Canada. Google that. Shameful.

The teacher said...

Are you working for the Montreal Tourist Office? I already feel like visiting your city...

A Novel Woman said...

Nope, I just moved from the burbs to downtown Montreal and I'm discovering the city as though I were a tourist!

Deniz Bevan said...

I'd love to go inside them! We didn't even get to go in when we had a tour of the seminary once by a friend.
I used to look down Fort street from exactly that angle while waiting for the bus after I'd left then-boyfriend-now-DH's house [g]

The teacher said...

Just kidding!

A Novel Woman said...

Deniz, I'd like to see inside the chapel. From the outside, the stained glass looks magnificent.