St. Matthews Cemetery undergoing $550,000 facelift

StMatthew.jpg
Photo: Marika Wheeler

The St. Matthew's Cemetery restoration project will reconstruct this collapsed crypt as part of the over half-million dollar project. Last year's photo of the same crypt click here.

[2008 Story Sparked an Outcry...click here]

The St. Matthew's Cemetery will be closed to the public as of August 3 while it undergoes a face lift costing over $500,000.

"This is a project I hold close to my heart," says Francois Rochette, the project manager of the restoration project, "I'm all for Quebec City, and this is part of our history and heritage."

Archeologists are conducting a dig near the Rue St-Jean entrance to the cemetery, but no details about their findings will be available until the dig is completed.

During the restoration project, between 200 and 250 stones, tombs and crypts will be cleaned and re-mortared. The grounds are also being renovated. Flowers and shrubs will be planted, and a path of trapezoidal granite stones will be laid.

A secondary path made of existing stepping stones will also be restored.

"In a French cemetery, everything is at 90 degrees and in straight lines. English cemeteries aren't as Cartesian and we will preserve that essence." says Rochette.

Rochette thinks that St. Matthew's is the only cemetery in Quebec which doubles as a park, much as many cemeteries in Europe do.

The project was first discussed in 2005 but it did not get the official go-ahead until the fall of 2008 after a public consultation.

David Mendel was nominated by the Anglican community to represent them during the planning process for the restoration project.

Rochette says he was consulted every step of the way. Should anything unexpected arise, he says he will be contacted again.

"This is a unique site in all of Canada, and we want to respect everyone," Rochette says

Eight thousand to 10,000 people are buried in the cemetery.

"If you look at how much higher the cemetery is than [Rue] St-Jean, well the top 300 millimeters or so is soil, then it is bodies," he says, "Basically all the anglophones who lived in the city before 1860 are buried there."

The restoration project will touch all the visible stones, but nothing which is underground will be touched. The stones in the ground will have to be restored on the spot as they are too fragile to move.

Rochette thinks the project is long overdue. The heritage site had become a "dog park" and was patronized by "individuals of a certain type.:

St. Matthew's Cemetery will be fully restored by the end of September, but will stay closed to the public until next spring so the new plants will have time to take root. There will then be an official opening to the revamped cemetery/park.

Quebec City is funding the $550,000 restoration project with a little help from the Ministry of Culture.

It looks like the Quebec Chronicle-Teleraph is doing its job, congratulations. This is a tremendous victory for the English community!