Individual Rituals

Apart from the religious rituals in which the believers had to take part, one could find in New France a "micro-rituality" consisting of an infinite number of tirelessly-repeated small private gestures. Morning and evening prayers, reciting one's rosary in front of a pious image, wearing the scapular, prayer on the road or at the foot of a roadside cross, the station in the parish church especially to adore the Saint Sacrament, cross signs at every stage of the day, the angelus rung three times a day were among the many acts that were part of the daily rituals.

Collective Rituals

On a collective level, religion also played a structuring role in the daily acts and the sociability of the believers. Brotherhoods of devotion consisted of specialised groups of believers formed voluntarily, and which included essentially laymen. In addition to providing a way to find a passport to the afterlife, the brotherhood helped believers build links of solidarity that sometimes compensated for the absence of an ancient communal past.


La sainte famille avec l'enfant Jean Baptiste / The Holy Family with the Child John the Baptist

The Holy Family with the Child John the Baptist

Cornelis Bloemaert after Annibal Carrache, after 1630
Musée de la civilisation, Séminaire de Québec Collection, 1993.29791

The Brotherhood of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

In 1664, Monseigneur de Laval played an active role in the establishment of the Brotherhood of the Holy Family in Quebec City. In 1665, Pope Alexander VII granted him leniencies for that purpose. Open to both men and women of New France, this brotherhood was dedicated to glorifying God, extolling the virtue of souls and increasing love and devotion toward Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Although it may surprise some, women assumed a dominant role in this association. Not only were they assigned to pious activities such as prayer, spiritual reflection and adoration of Christ, but they also looked after charities by accompanying the poor, the sick and women in labour. A model of virtue, the woman who belonged to the Brotherhood avoided mundane life, the vices of receptions of all kind, and observed Christian modesty both in conduct and in attire. Furthermore, she was responsible for the financial aspect of the association by contributing to its financial charges, while ensuring financial support for the maintenance of places of worship and keeping up the good reputation of the brotherhood.

Marie-Aimée Cliche, Les pratiques de dévotion en Nouvelle-France : comportements populaires et encadrement ecclésial dans le gouvernement de Québec. Québec, PUL, 1988.

Denis Martin, Les collections de gravures du Séminaire de Québec (histoire et destins culturels). Québec, Université Laval (mémoire de maîtrise), 1980.




Une fillette apprend le rite du chapelet avec sa grand-mère. / A little girl learns the ritual of saying her beads with her grandmother.

Le chapelet, undated

Louis Deschamps
in Almanach de l'Action sociale catholique, 1922
Musée de la civilisation, Séminaire de Québec Library, 603.2




Parée de ses plus beaux habits, une jeune fille, agenouillée et missel aux genoux, attend d'un air interrogateur le début de la prière. / In her Sunday dress, a young girl kneels with a missal on her lap, waiting for the beginning of a prayer, with an inquiring look on her face.

Notre Père, qui êtes aux cieux, undated

W. B. Gardner
in L'Opinion publique, 1873
Musée de la civilisation, Séminaire de Québec Library, 660.4.4