Illustrated histories in vibrant colors and great detail cover the once mundane facades of old buildings in and around Quebec City. Cityscapes unfold and bricks give way to the innards of old buildings, displaying the devastating and important events that compose the story of one of the oldest cities in North America.
The post-revolutionary murals of the 1920s made their way from Mexico up through North America. Rather than following any artistic trends, murals adopted the accounts and aesthetics of local cultures. Quebec City’s fresco murals use the ancient painting method to preserve the figures and events of its 400-year history.
The first mural, Fresque des Québécois, was finished in 1999. Cité Création, an artist collective responsible for over 650 fresco murals since 1978, and Quebec artists Hélène Fleury, Marie-Chantal Lachance, and Pierre Laforest transformed a windowless wall of the Soumande House on Notre-Dame into a three-dimensional city landscape featuring landmarks and figures of Quebec City’s history.
There are about 20 murals throughout the region, each illustrating its own period or facet of the city’s history. La Fresque du Petit-Champlain portrays the fishing and sea trades at the heart of the economy, along with a 1682 fire and landslides in 1889. La Fresque de la Bibliothéque Gabrielle-Roy covers key moments in literature. Les Fresques des Piliers are the only ones not beholden to some kind of historical authenticity. They’re painted on several pillars under the Dufferin-Montmorency Highway. Completed between 2000 and 2002, they depict eclectic scenes of a circus, fairy tales, and a cathedral.
The ongoing project has no official promotion, but the murals continue to attract growing numbers tourists to the area—about 2.5 million a year, according to the Quebec Tourist Office. A real sense of cultural identity is preserved in these murals, both in subject and process. The very things meant to memorialize the region’s heritage have become an important part of the heritage themselves.
Know Before You Go
The address is for La Fresque du Petit-Champlain; Other murals are located throughout Quebec City and the surrounding areas.