The impressive bulk of the Basilique-Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Québec constitutes the oldest parish north of Mexico; the church was burnt to the ground in 1922 – one of many fires it has suffered – and was rebuilt to the original plans of its seventeenth-century forebear. Absolute silence within the cathedral heightens the impressiveness of the Rococo-inspired interior, culminating in a ceiling of blue sky and billowy clouds. The altar, a gilded replica of St Peter’s, is surmounted by an elaborate baldachin uncharacteristically supported by angelic caryatids rather than columns due to the narrow space, and is topped by a statue of Jesus standing on a gilded sphere. The pewter sanctuary lamp, to the right of the main altar, was a gift from Louis XIV and is one of the few treasures to survive the fire. In the crypt more than nine hundred bodies, including three governors and most of Québec’s bishops, are interred. Champlain is also rumoured to be buried here, though archeologists are still trying to work out which body is his. Unfortunately, the only part of the crypt you can see on the informative guided tours is a mundane modern corridor.

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