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Maintaining a legacy of care at Le Monastère des Augustines

Leveraging its rich monastic history and tradition, this Québec spa offers visitors a stay like no other

For nearly four centuries, the Augustinian sisters have been providing care and holistic healing within the community’s Québec City monastery, preserving a unique piece of history and heritage that is now being shared with visitors who are seeking relaxation and a rejuvenation of physical and mental health. It’s an environment that’s steeped in antiquity and adorned with the relics of former times—one that promises to allow guests the opportunity to find balance through simplicity within a haven of wellness and space for personal transformation. And, explains Anne-Josée Cameron, national and international media relations for Le Monastère des Augustines, because the monastery operates with the idea of preservation in mind, guests also enjoy the benefits of the Augustine sisters’ legacy of caregiving.
“The Augustinian sisters have a long history of serving as nurses and apothecaries,” she explains. “They’ve been taking care of others for hundreds of years and have developed a legacy that is being preserved and maintained so that others can learn and benefit from it for years to come. Le Monastère is an unbelievably unique place where people can come to get away from the pressures and stresses of daily life and find peace to relax and rejuvenate. And, because of the rich history that surrounds the Augustinian sisters, the monastery, and everything that it stands for, a visit to Le Monastère is definitely unlike any other.”

Opening up to the public
Built in 1639, the monastery began serving as a hospital in 1644 and is known to be the first of its kind on the continent north of Mexico. Shortly thereafter, the sisters would have 11 more hospitals built in order to take care of the sick within the province, essentially laying the very foundations of the Québec healthcare system as we know it today. In fact, the hospitals and the care that they provided were managed by the Augustinians until the Quiet Revolution in the 1960s when the government took control. The transfer of management over the province’s healthcare system coincided with the decline of the Augustinian population in Québec, prompting a form of succession planning as a means to protect and preserve their culture and teachings, and to ensure their legacy survived them. As a result, Cameron explains, a trust fund was developed in which the monastery was handed over to the people of Québec, with a few conditions.

“The first condition of the transfer was that management of the monastery must include the upkeep and maintenance of its archives,” she says. “There are nearly 400 years’ worth of archival information contained within the monastery documenting the Augustinian sisters’ arrival in Canada and all of the major and minor events that helped to shape the history of the Augustinian sisters, the province of Québec, and Canada as a whole. The archives are extremely well preserved and are a part of the UNESCO Memory of the World program. The other condition was that the sisters’ legacy of taking care of people must be honoured and carried on. As a result, the completely restored and redesigned property offers a unique holistic health experience where visitors have the opportunity to heal and revive their body, mind, and spirit. In addition, all of the revenue that’s generated by the monastery is reinvested into the services that we provide.”

Maintaining a tradition of healing
To uphold its commitment to the Augustinian sisters, Le Monastère is home to the Augustinian museum as well as an archive centre where visitors are offered a glimpse back in time with a living connection to the Augustinian sisters’ heritage. And, through a range of treatments and services—including holistic health consultations, a spectrum of massages (aroma, vitality, reflexology, Thai yoga, pre-natal, and more), facials, energy healing, meditation, and pressure therapy sessions—the monastery isn’t doing a bad job maintaining its pledge to provide care and respite, either. It’s a range of services that Cameron says helps to provide something for everyone, calling visits to the spa “slow wellness retreats” for individuals.
“It’s quite a hectic life that many people live today,” she acknowledges. “We work all day, take care of the kids, maybe the parents, too, and find it difficult to take a moment to rest and relax. The monastery is serving as that place where people can take those much-needed moments to recharge. It’s been doing so, offering these services, since 2015. So, although the monastery and its traditions are very old, the spa is actually still quite young. It’s resulted in a really interesting confluence that helps to create the atmosphere and environment at Le Monastère.”

Choice of stays
Visitors of Le Monastère have a choice of accommodations when they stay at the spa, selecting from either the authentic or contemporary hospitality arrangements. The authentic stay offers guests the opportunity to live as the Augustinian sisters have for these many years, sleeping in monastic cells that are contained by centuries-old walls. The contemporary stay places visitors on a modern floor of the facility with the amenities that guests of a hotel are accustomed to. Each stay is an option within the plethora of different getaway packages that have been made available by Le Monastère. But, despite which one guests choose, Cameron says that visitors will receive a unique experience all the same.
“The moment you set foot on the monastery grounds, you’re filled with a very special feeling,” she says. “There’s a really calming effect that the surroundings have on a person, making them feel as though they need to take a pause and care for themselves. It’s a feeling of elevation in a way, created by the centuries of lives that have passed through the buildings and spaces, ensuring that those who visit take leave of their day-to-day lives.”

Disconnected respite
In order to help visitors leave their day-to-day lives, the monastery does not offer any televisions. And, staff encourage everyone who enters to disconnect completely by leaving digital devices at the front desk or, in the least, by turning them off for the duration of their stay. Outside, the property is adorned with beautiful gardens of flowers and plants, adding to the tranquility and restful nature of the destination. And, for eating and dining, Le Monastère is home to Le Vivoir—a space within the monastery dedicated to promoting mindful eating and optimizing the experience of guests, offering a variety of meal selections and side dishes that can be combined to taste. In all, says Cameron, each stay is centred around total health and wellness within an experience that has something to offer just about everyone.
“Le Monastère receives all types of different people,” she says. “But what they all have in common is at least a partial interest in enhancing or improving their well-being—mentally, physically, and spiritually. We entertain a lot of people who are beginning to place a great emphasis and focus on their health. And, because we’re just outside the heart of Québec City, a lot of visitors to the province and city come to visit us as well. And, as mentioned, most are seeking a refuge or a haven in which to slow down within and to reflect and introspect. Fortunately, they’re coming to the right place, because there isn’t another that can offer the same level of peace and serenity.”

Unique and fulfilling experience
As Le Monastère des Augustines approaches its first major milestone since introducing health and wellness spa packages and stays to the public nearly 10 years ago, it continues to build on the services that it already provides. And, as Cameron explains, it does so in efforts to offer offer a unique and even more fulfilling experience for its guests.
“We’re currently working on developing our own signature retreat for visitors. It will be based on art and environmental therapy. And, given all of the amazing art that exists within Québec City and how beautiful the city is, it makes sense for us to leverage what we already have available to us. We’d like to introduce it within the next few years and are currently engaging panels and collaborating to make it happen. But day to day, going forward, it’s really about tweaking and fine-tuning what we offer, both in terms of services as well as the surroundings, in order to ensure a great experience for visitors and a chance for them to enjoy the benefits of the Augustinian sisters’ legacy of care.”

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