“History and archaeology are living sciences, where nothing ever stands still. A scrap of text, a piece of a wall or a tiny artifact are enough to confirm a hypothesis or, to the contrary, open up new perspectives and bring figures from the past to life.”
Francine Lelièvre, Executive Director of Pointe-à-Callière, the Montréal Museum of Archaeology and History
Photo: Alain Vandal, Pointe-à-Callière
Significant scientific discoveries about Fort Ville-Marie
Archaeological research allows us to add to what we know about the French Regime, a period for which there is little in the way of written evidence. History has left us few clues about Fort Ville-Marie. In 1725, Sister Marie Morin, who kept records for Hôtel-Dieu and was one of the few people to mention the existence of the Fort, said that it was located on the part of the point that was ceded in 1688 to Governor Louis-Hector de Callière. She wrote:
“The place where the holy altar was located and where the first Mass was said was later used to build Monsieur de Maisonneuve’s renowned house in the fort. It lasted until 82 or 83, and was torn down, although it was made only of wood. It was located where the house of Monsieur de Callière, our governor today, now stands.”
Callière’s point is located where a little river, now disappeared, joined the St. Lawrence. Once forgotten, it is now re-emerging from the shadows. Digs in 1989 revealed remains of over three centuries of history on the site. During the construction of the Museum, archaeologists unearthed Ville-Marie’s first Catholic cemetery (1643), where both French settlers and Natives were laid to rest. The remains of the cemetery confirm the location of Montréal’s birthplace.
In 1998, Pointe-à-Callière took an interest in a building next to the Museum – a building that had never had a basement, which is very rare in the historic district. Exploratory probes confirmed the site’s potential. Since 2002, the research carried out by Pointe-à-Callière’s Archaeological Field School has allowed us to identify with certainty the remains of Fort Ville-Marie. Only one-third of the site has been excavated to date, in fact, and there are still many hypotheses to be tested and discoveries to come.
Learn about the latest archaeological discoveries at the Fort Ville-Marie site, in their historic context.