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August 11, 2016 /

Thursday Doors: Quebec City’s Holy Door

I had never participated in Norm 2.0’s ongoing Thursday Doors linked posts before, but when we saw—then walked through—the Holy Door of the Basilica Norte-Dame de Quebec, I knew it would be a perfect way to share the experience.

I am not Catholic, nor am I particularly religious, but it’s hard not to be awed by the splendor of the world’s great churches. The practical side of me thinks the construction costs could have been better put to use feeding the poor and housing the homeless, but I also admire the magnificence of the architecture and opulent adornments.


Notre-Dame-de-Quebec has a large physical and a spiritual presence in Quebec City. It was the first Catholic parish in North America, north of Mexico, and is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Quebec.

To celebrate the 350th anniversary of the Basilica, the Vatican awarded Notre-Dame-de-Quebec the exceptional privilege of installing the first Holy Door outside of Europe. There are seven Holy Doors in the world: four in Rome, one in France, one in Spain, and now this one in Quebec City.

What is a Holy Door? According to Catholic teachings, a Holy Door is a visible symbol of oneness with the Universal Church and of internal renewal, which begins with the desire to make peace with God. Holy Doors are typically only opened during Jubilee years, which are “years of remission, of indulgence, and also of reconciliation, conversion and sacramental penance.”

Quebec City’s Holy Door was installed in the wall of the Chapel of the Sacred Heart on the north side of the Basilica and first opened December 8, 2013. Following Church tradition, it remained open for one year and then was to be sealed by mortar and cement for about 25 years (until the next Jubilee in 2039).

So, why, in 2016, were we able to pass through the Holy Door even though it had been sealed shut? Fortunately for us, Holy Doors can be re-opened if the Pope deems it appropriate and, in 2015, Pope Francis declared that current international events called for an extraordinary year of mercy. He announced that the Jubilee of Mercy would take place from December 2015 to November 2016 and all Holy Doors would be open during that time.

Also fortunately for my husband and me, walking through a Holy Door is not restricted to practicing Catholics, but it is available to “all persons of good will.” We were told that by passing through the Door one can “reconcile with your neighbors, restore in yourself everything that has been damaged in the past, and reshape your heart.”

Catholic or not, who wouldn’t want to experience that!



Leave a Comment
  1. Liesbet / Aug 11 2016 11:39 am

    That is one very cool and enlightening door! Such luck you both managed to experience it. Now, head back over there, so your hip can heal more quickly… 🙂

    • / Aug 11 2016 2:31 pm

      Haha! Maybe I did receive some residual good karma (yes, I know I’m mixing religious beliefs) as my hip is healing nicely!

  2. Norm 2.0 / Aug 11 2016 12:38 pm

    Welcome to Thursday Doors, so glad you decided to join us 🙂
    I pretty much share your thoughts on religion but it is hard not to marvel at the beauty and dedication of much of the artwork produced in its name.
    We missed these doors the last time we were there, but I’m hoping to go back there in the fall.

    • / Aug 11 2016 2:43 pm

      Thank you for the welcome! I really hope you can get there before they seal the door again. It was a unique and beautiful passageway into a lovely basilica.

  3. Kate Crimmins / Aug 11 2016 1:16 pm

    When was this trip? I notice the trees are leafless! Awesome experience!

    • / Aug 11 2016 2:34 pm

      Good eye! I had to borrow that picture from a generous friend since the ones I took (in June) of the front of the church didn’t come out as well. The pics of the door are mine, though.

      • Kate Crimmins / Aug 11 2016 5:03 pm

        Ok, I’m not crazy! I thought you were there at the beginning of the summer. Of course with the weather so wonky these days…..

  4. Dan Antion / Aug 11 2016 1:25 pm

    What an interesting door, and story for Thursday Doors! Nicely done.

    • / Aug 11 2016 2:35 pm

      Thank you! I have been following the Thursday Doors posts of others for awhile and thought this door would be a perfect way to get involved.

  5. dconnollyislandgmailcom / Aug 11 2016 1:27 pm

    Very interesting post, Janis! What an incredible experience!

    • / Aug 11 2016 2:37 pm

      We felt very lucky to have been able to pass through the door. Just because we aren’t religious doesn’t mean that we don’t appreciate the rituals and symbolism.

  6. laura bruno lilly / Aug 11 2016 3:59 pm

    Really cool…doors are so symbolic on any level; add to that the idea of a ‘holy door’ and wow.

  7. snakesinthegrass2014 / Aug 11 2016 4:54 pm

    I’ve never heard of the Holy Doors, but I’ve always found Catholic traditions to be so fascinating. What a great trip you made…

    • / Aug 11 2016 5:40 pm

      I hadn’t heard of them before either. I guess I’ll have to wait until 2039 to pass through the other six in Europe.

  8. joannesisco / Aug 11 2016 6:08 pm

    Holy Religious Experience!!

    I was raised Catholic but no one who knows me would ever accuse me of being even remotely religious ….but this is impressive. I had never heard of a Holy Door until we visited Rome a few years ago and I had no idea the first NA one was in QC.

    I have a wee bit of problem with organized religion and the money that could be spent on helping the needy … But OMG, they sure know how to finance an impressive piece of architecture!

    • / Aug 12 2016 10:51 am

      My husband was also raised Catholic but left the Church long ago. I probably wouldn’t have known about QC’s Holy Door (or about Holy Doors at all) if we hadn’t taken a walking tour. We find that taking these tours really helps us get to know the city we are visiting. Did you get to walk through the Holy Door in Rome?

      • joannesisco / Aug 14 2016 5:33 am

        Unfortunately the door was closed when we were in Rome. Maybe someday … Or perhaps I’ll get to QC before November 😉

  9. Terri Webster Schrandt / Aug 11 2016 6:23 pm

    Great subject for the Thursday Doors challenge! I suppose once we reconcile (at least acknowledge) our own shortcomings, we can be available to help others.

  10. Lorraine Maloney / Aug 11 2016 7:46 pm

    So interesting, and insightful. As a ‘recovering Catholic’ I am moved by the spirit of inclusion that the Pope put forward. Your good will has opened many doors for you. Glad you shared.

    • / Aug 12 2016 10:29 am

      I really loved that Quebec’s Holy Door (and, I assume all Holy Doors) are open to all. Pope Francis is doing so much to heal the Catholic Church and its reputation in the world.

  11. sustainabilitea / Aug 11 2016 8:17 pm

    I’m not Catholic but am religious and I, too, love the the awesome (in the true sense of the word) churches throughout the world. It would be great if walking through a door could do all that! 🙂 There are some people I’d like to force through the door if that worked.


    • / Aug 12 2016 10:26 am

      Haha! I’m not sure that forcing others through the door counts… but I have a few people in mind too! 🙂

  12. BeckyB / Aug 12 2016 12:06 am

    Fascinating . . . . and agree who wouldn’t want to walk through a door which can restore everything in your past.

  13. susan@onesmallwalk / Aug 12 2016 8:24 am

    A real door and a symbolic one – nicely done!

  14. edebock / Aug 13 2016 10:04 pm

    I had the same thought both times I visited Notre Dame… it’s absolutely amazing and yet it seems somehow out of place in a world where millions suffer in extreme poverty. The Holy Door wasn’t there yet when we visited; in fact, I’d never heard of such a thing before. Thank you for sharing!

    • / Aug 14 2016 5:01 pm

      We felt very lucky to have been there when it was open, and to have been able to walk through it. Even though it wasn’t a religious experience for us, we loved the symbolism.

  15. patwdoyle11 / Aug 14 2016 10:17 am

    I am Catholic and I learned more about the concept of Jubilee Year and Holy Doors from your post than I ever did from my Catholic upbringing! I love walking tours of places; you learn so much. Thanks for sharing.

    • / Aug 14 2016 5:06 pm

      Haha! It was interesting to do some research into both. I always feel like such a tourist when on a walking tour (which, of course, I am), but I always get a lot out of them. I especially liked the tour guide we had in Quebec.

  16. lisadorenfest / Aug 21 2016 8:44 pm

    What an amazing first entry for Norm’s Doors. I was not familiar with Holy Doors so this was a very informative post.

    • / Aug 22 2016 1:02 pm

      I probably wouldn’t have known about them (including the one in Quebec) if we hadn’t taken the walking tour. It was a treat!


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