“Each page of a book is a city. Each line is a street. Each word is a dwelling.”
-Réjean Ducharme, L’avalée des avalés
Even on the greyest of days, Maison de la littérature appears to be bathed in warm light. This, not doubt, is the result of the triple lancet windows – tall, narrow windows with a pointed arch on the top – that surround the Maison de la littérature library.
One of the most Instagrammed interiors in Old Québec City (Vieux Québec), the library of Maison de la littérature is a delightful marriage between contemporary design and neo-gothic architecture. The walls, bookshelves and tables are white; the floors and stairs are blonde hardwood; the furniture is contemporary in design and either charcoal, mint or beige in colour; the lights are chrome and contemporary in design; and the staircase looks like a white metal ribbon that runs from the mezzanine to the library floor.
Wesley Temple & L’Institut Canadien de Québec
The exterior of Maison de la littérature retains its original form, that of the former Wesley Temple. A Methodist church designed by architect Edward Staveley and constructed in 1848, the Wesley Temple was the first neo-gothic church in Québec.
In 1931 the Methodist congregation abandoned the Wesley Temple in Old Québec and joined with another congregation in the city.
With the help of Senator Lorne Campbell Webster, the Wesley Temple was leased** by L’Institut Canadien de Québec and transformed in the mid-1940s into the city’s first public library. Over the next seventy years, L’Institut Canadien de Québec served as a public library (bibliothéque) and concert hall, and in 2005 a writers-in-residence program was introduced. The Insitut also developed a network of public libraries in Québec City during this time.
**The lease was a 99-year lease by the City of Québec, which was rescinded in 2012 when the city announced the Maison de la littérature project, assuming all responsibility for the building.
Maison de la littérature
Three years and $14.5 million dollars later, Maison de la littérature opened its doors in October 2015. While the architectural transformation by architectural firm Chevalier Morales is definitely something to be admired, there is more to Maison de la littérature than clean design, natural light and a welcoming ambience.
At its core, Maison de la littérature is the home of Québécois literature. It is here, that the literary works of Québec authors are being preserved and shared with the public. It is a house of literature working to ensure that Québécois culture, traditions and language continues to thrive.
Aside from a beautiful library, Maison de la littérature features quiet writing and reading rooms and creative studios. A stage and small café occupy the main floor, a perfect venue for literary events and festivals. A beautiful glass annex on the north side of the building houses the Maison de la littérature writer-in-residence.
Once an anglophone church, Maison de la littérature is now a hub for francophone literature and culture.
Plan Your Visit
Maison de la littérature is open to everyone, anglophone and francophone, and is a popular destination for Instagrammers and architecture lovers alike. One thing to note is that most staff will only speak French – this is, after all, a francophone library and creative centre – so keep that in mind when you visit.
The library is closed on Mondays, but doors open the rest of the week at 10 am.
ZAP wi-fi is available, which is FREE! One thing to remember is that you only get 1GB of data per week on a ZAP connection, so if you use it all at Maison de la littérature, you’ll need to find a new hotspot somewhere else in the city – there are a lot of them, don’t worry.
- Take the elevator to the 2nd floor (mezzanine) for a view of the library from above. It is pretty.
- Watch your step on the winding staircase coming down – don’t Instagram and walk!
- Remember to be respectful to those using the library
- There are computers with wifi on the library floor as well as the mezzanine
- Check out the interactive displays, they are in French, but still interesting.
- When you’re done exploring Maison de la littérature, walk across the street to check out the library at the Morrin Centre, which is English. A very different experience.