Thursday, December 7, 2023

Throwback Thursday - Sainte-Marie Among the Hurons

July 2016 - Sainte-Marie Among the Hurons ON

There's been a lot of good walks lately, hard to pin down one for this week.

This walk also included a stop at the Martyrs' Shrine so you must come over and visit it as well.

There is also another church posted here.

I'm not going to mention how HOT it was on Thursday when we explored here. I already mentioned in the the Shrine post and my weekly recap which includes some photos of our drive and the area.

Thanks to the Sainte-Marie website for the information.

After paying an entrance fee we watched an informative video on the history of the village.

The story of Sainte-Marie among the Hurons dates back almost four hundred years. Wendake (“the land apart”) was the ancestral homeland of the Huron Wendat nation, a branch of the Iroquoian family. The Wendat were a matrilineal society of skilled traders and farmers.

You then exit the Visitors' Centre and enter the village.

It is popular legend that the IHS stands for the Latin phrase Iesus Hominum Salvator, “Jesus the Savior of (all) Men”.

Following the trail of French explorer Samuel de Champlain, French Jesuit priests arrived in Wendake early in the 17th century. An international order, the Jesuits operated like an army, dedicated to spreading Catholicism throughout the world. They believed that the first step in converting a person to Christianity was to educate him.

The Jesuits established themselves in Wendake. They travelled from village to village, learning the Wendat language and customs, and preaching to the Native people. Their Superior, Father Jérome Lalemant, dreamed of "building a house apart, remote from the vicinity of the villages, that would serve among other things for the retreat and meditation of our evangelistic labourers."

After the arrival of carpenter Charles Boivin, further construction resulted in a chapel, a residence for the Jesuits, a cookhouse, a smithy and other buildings. Sainte-Marie became the Jesuit headquarters in Huronia, from which the Jesuits travelled among the Iroqouian-speaking Huron and Petun, and the Algonquian-speaking Nipissing, Ottawa and Ojibwa peoples, whose languages were distinct but related to each other.

This is the cookhouse. These young guides were excellent, engaging and fun. It was a really hot day to be making soup!

Corn was a main staple of their diet. The heat from the fire would dry the corn for many uses.

A small group of religiously devoted men, also known as donnés (offered, given or gifts), worked at the mission in return for food, clothing, and shelter. The Jesuits hired engagés, laborers, and non-clerical Jesuits known as "lay brothers". The Jesuits preached the Christian Gospel to the Huron, often adapting the story to local customs and symbols. One of the most famous examples of this was the "Huron Carol", a Christmas hymn written by Jean de Brébeuf. A translated version of this song remains popular in Canadian churches to this day.

You could try your hand at writing with a quill.

Carpentry shop

Blacksmith's, this young man was very well informed. Normally the fire would be going but it was just too hot out.

Courageous laymen travelled from France to build a mission on the banks of the Isaraqui (Wye) River in 1639. It was named Sainte-Marie among the Hurons. Huron is the French name for Wendat.

Hard work and dedication soon brought Sainte-Marie to virtual self-sufficiency, an impressive achievement for a community 1,200 kilometres from Quebec. It was to last only 10 years.

In the 17th century, the land we know as Canada was New France. The population numbered in the low hundreds, and most of the people lived along the Saint Lawrence River, their livelihood based on fish, furs and fledgling agriculture. We know the story of Sainte-Marie among the Hurons from the annual reports written by the Superior at Sainte-Marie. The reports, known as the Jesuit Relations, were sent to France via Quebec.

Apothecary garden.

Apothecary / hospital

Wendat villages were places of residence, food storage and interaction. The main buildings within the village were longhouses. The longhouse represented the physical expression of their basic family, social, religious and economic life. The longhouse was a windowless structure, six to nine metres wide and about the same height. Archaeological evidence indicates that the average longhouse was between twenty-five to thirty metres long. Longhouses generally faced northwestward into the prevailing wind. This could have been done to prevent the longhouses from blowing down in a strong wine or to prevent the spread of fire from one dwelling to another. Longhouses were usually built parallel to each other at about three to four paces apart. From archaeological evidence, it appears that longhouses were made of cedar bark and covered by large pieces of elm bark. Doors were left at the ends and sometimes along the sides, and they were usually low to the ground. To enter, a person would need to bend over. Holes were left in the roof to allow smoke to escape and to allow some light in. Large hearths were about 6 metres apart with usually two families per fireplace.

The most common family descent pattern within the longhouse had everyone related through the mother matrilineally. The Wendat did have a strong tradition of hospitality. Visitors were usually permitted to reside for short or long periods of time within the longhouse.

The report written by Father Paul Ragueneau tells us the story of heartbreak and despair that led to the abandonment of Sainte-Marie among the Hurons.

In the spring of 1649, attacks by the Iroquois increased. Under growing pressure, the Jesuit missionaries, their helpers and Wendat followers burned the settlement and abandoned it. They fled to St. Joseph Island (now Christian Island), where they endeavoured to establish a new Sainte-Marie. After a terrible winter of starvation and constant attack, the Frenchmen and the Christian Wendat returned to Quebec.

The Huron were settled on l'île d'Orléans in Quebec, where the Iroquois attacked the community. The surviving Wendat stayed in Quebec, and eventually gathered at Jeune Lorette in 1697, where they established their Huron culture and a nation known as Loretteville or Wendake. Today, it remains one of the largest Huron Wendat communities in Canada. At Sainte-Marie among the Hurons in Ontario, the grave of the martyred priests Brébeuf and Lalemant is a sacred place of Christian pilgrimage.

The ruins of Sainte-Marie lay undisturbed for almost three centuries. Archaeological excavations and historical research provided the information to accurately reconstruct many of the original mission buildings seen here today.

There is a lovely restaurant on site.

And a museum.

A beaver hat is made from felted beaver fur. They were fashionable across much of Europe during the period 1550–1850 because the soft yet resilient material could be easily combed to make a variety of hat shapes (including the familiar top hat).


  1. As always fabulous photos and your narrative always teaches me new and interesting things about places that I may never get to, but your writing/photos sure make me want to!

  2. I didn't know a thing about the Hurons, Jackie, so thank you for the history lesson. The young guides look very cheerful indeed, and I did enjoy the singing. :) Many thanks for the link up.

  3. Very informative, Jackie! I would enjoy a visit here.

  4. Looks like quite a tour and seems like an uncomfortable but productive life. I like the longhouses.

  5. What and interesting, interesting place. I really enjoy visiting venues like these because you can learn so much about history. Oh, I am a bit jealous, I have never seen a long house in person. Fun post, as usual, Jackie.

    Lisa @ Life Thru the Lens

  6. What an interesting place! Your pictures reminded me a lot of the Viking museum in the Lofoten Islands of Norway. They have a longhouse too, with actors dressed up and everything!

  7. I do love places like this and I'm so glad you took so many photos. I never was good at history but places like this make it easier :) That song is awesome. I did not know that Canada was once New France. The things I learn!

  8. Wow, what an interesting place to get the chance to visit :) Lovely photos too! :)

  9. Thanks for the virtual tour of Sainte Marie village. Looks like such an interesting place to visit and intrigued to learn that the Wendat were a matrilineal society. #WanderfulWednesday

  10. Looks like a fascinating place to visit...

  11. This place is amazing, could've entertained me for hours on end! Thanks for linking up! #WanderfulWednesday

  12. This travel back with you into history was just amazing! I enjoyed it so much! It really brought to life that time and those peoples about whom I have read at times...and I loved it! I would really enjoy visiting here, and perhaps one day I will get an opportunity! Awesome post!!!

  13. Oh how I loved this!!!! I am going to do a link to your post from my next post in which I will be sharing that Huron Carol. I loved it! Loved all the wonderful history. Thank you so much for sharing this!

  14. What an interesting place to visit with so much to learn! I love seeing places like this where you could just walk around and entertain yourself for hours! Thanks for sharing and linking up :D

  15. Fascinating place and wonderful shots, Jackie!
    Thank you for joining the Travel Tuesday meme, hope to see more of your photos this week!

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  17. I can't even get close to pronouncing the name of route 93. With my limited knowledge I think Canada showcases its Indian history very well.


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