La visite guidée et commentée se fera dans les anciennes sections du cimetière, près du chemin de Montréal et du boulevard Saint-Laurent, puis vers le centre du cimetière, pour ensuite revenir vers l’entrée. La visite vous fera découvrir l’un des joyaux des patrimoines religieux, culturel, historique et environnemental d’Ottawa par des arrêts devant des monuments (stèles), des caveaux familiaux ou mausolées et un columbarium; des éléments de patrimoine funéraire qui caractérise cet espace patrimonial et les personnalités qui y ont trouvé leur dernier repos seront évoqués. Les promeneurs pourront observer l’habitat naturel d’une petite faune, l’abri offert par les arbres ornementaux et les arbustes étant la composante la plus importante contribuant à l’habitat faunique. Le parcours est de 0.5 à 1 km et d’une durée approximative d’une heure et demie.
For added variety, this year I decided to attend one of the many French walks offered as part of Jane’s Walk Ottawa and I ventured outside my usual central Ottawa comfort zone. While my French was good enough to follow the tour, I won’t subject you to my French writing (though hopefully by next year it will back up to par for French coverage of a French walk).
The Notre-Dame Cemetery is one of Ottawa’s oldest cemeteries. Founded in 1872, it replaced the quickly outgrown cemeteries downtown including the former Barracks Hill Cemetery on Elgin and Queen that has been receiving some media coverage in the past few years as remains continue to be discovered as part of the LRT tunnel digs. As the city’s most prominent Catholic cemetery, it obviously has a strong francophone presence but is also (final) home to the city’s other historic and more recent Catholic communities—Polish, Chinese, Irish, etc.
Our guide, Jean Yves Pelletier took us on a fascinating tour of the cemetery’s history and who’s who. Pelletier even wrote a book on the cemetery and its famous personalities, Ottawa Notre Dame Cemetery, an historic cemetery of national importance established in 1872 (available in French and English). In collaboration with VanierNow, Pelletier has also collected his research on Notre-Dame Cemetery and many of the fascinating local characters now residing there within, on this great blog.
The cemetery’s most famous resident is Canada’s first francophone prime minister, the Right and Honourable Sir Wilfrid Laurier. Laurier’s grave with its beautiful nine ladies of the provinces sculpted by Alfred Laliberté greet visitors just beyond the entrance gates. To the left of the entrance is one of the cemetery’s war graves plots for soldiers and veterans of the first and second world wars.
One of the other residents of Notre-Dame of particular interest for our audience, is Msg. George Bouillon. Though not formally trained as an architect, the monseigneur left his architectural mark on the city. You’ve probably been through his Rideau Street Chapel which is now located inside the National Gallery. He was also the architect of the Notre-Dame Basilica on Sussex across from the Gallery. Msg. Bouillon is buried in the recently renovated circular plot for priests. The redesigned landscape of this plot is intended to be a welcoming space for peaceful contemplation.
If you’ve been to any of the galleries (or tourist shops) in Ottawa, you probably also recognize the work of another resident of Notre-Dame Cemetery—the Ojibwa artist, Benjamin Chee Chee. As Canadians of a certain generation, you know that there are people of importance to Canadian Heritage buried here when one of the residents is the subject of his own Heritage Minute—Etienne Parent rests here.
Walking through the grounds, you come across many many familiar Ottawa names—street names, public schools, businesses. The cemetery becomes a strange kind of historical map of the city.
Thanks to Jane’s Walk Ottawa organizers, volunteers, and guides.