National Historic Sites of Canada

Château Frontenac

The Château Frontenac is a grand hotel in Quebec, Canada. The hotel is generally recognized as the most photographed hotel in the world, largely for its prominence in the skyline of Quebec City. The current hotel capacity is more than 600 rooms on 18 floors. The Château Frontenac was designed by American architect Bruce Price, as one of a series of 'château' style hotels built for the Canadian Pacifi ...
Founded: 1893 | Location: Quebec City, Canada

Notre-Dame-des-Victoires Church

Notre-Dame-des-Victoires is a small Roman Catholic stone church in the Lower Town of Quebec City. Built on the site of Samuel de Champlain’s 1608 Habitation, it is the first permanent French establishment in North America; a symbol of the French presence in North America. The construction was started in 1687 and completed in 1723. The church was largely destroyed by the British bombardment that preceded the Bat ...
Founded: 1687-1723 | Location: Quebec City, Canada

Cathedral of the Holy Trinity

The Cathedral of the Holy Trinity (Sainte-Trinité) is the cathedral of the Anglican Diocese of Quebec. The Diocese of Quebec was founded in 1793 and its first bishop, Dr. Jacob Mountain, gave his early attention to the erection of a cathedral. The completed building, designed by military officers William Robe and William Hall and built between 1800 and 1804, was consecrated on August 28, 1804. It was the first Angli ...
Founded: 1800-1804 | Location: Quebec City, Canada

Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Québec

The Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Québec is the oldest church in the Americas north of the Spanish colonies in Florida and New Mexico. It is a National Historic Site of Canada, and located within the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Historic District of Old Québec. Located on this site since 1647, the cathedral has twice been destroyed by fire throughout the centuries. A previous iteration of the church was de ...
Founded: 1647 | Location: Quebec City, Canada

Quebec City Hall

The City Hall of Quebec City (Hôtel de ville de Québec) was inaugurated on September 15, 1896. The building slopes downward as it was built on a hill and was once home to the Jesuit College (Jesuit Barracks) from the 1730s to 1878. Designed by architect Georges-Émile Tanguay (1858-1923), it is the second permanent city hall for the old city. From 1842 to 1896 City Hall sat at home of British Army Major General ...
Founded: 1896 | Location: Quebec City, Canada

Fortifications of Québec

The ramparts of Quebec City are the only remaining fortified city walls in North America north of Mexico. The British began refortifying the existing walls, after they took Quebec City from the French in the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1759. The wall, which runs on the eastern extremity on the Promontory of Quebec, surrounds most of Old Quebec, which was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in ...
Founded: 1620-1759 | Location: Quebec City, Canada

Ursuline Monastery

The Ursuline Monastery of Quebec City was founded by a missionary group of Ursuline nuns in 1639. It is the oldest institution of learning for women in North America. Today, the monastery serves as the General Motherhouse of the Ursuline Sisters of the Canadian Union. The community there also operates an historical museum and continues to serve as a teaching centre.
Founded: 1639 | Location: Quebec City, Canada

Citadelle of Quebec

The Citadelle of Quebec is an active military installation and official residence of both the Canadian monarch and the Governor General of Canada. It is located atop Cap Diamant, adjoining the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City. The citadel is the oldest military building in Canada, and forms part of the fortifications of Quebec City, which is one of only two cities in North America still surrounded by forti ...
Founded: 1693 | Location: Quebec City, Canada

L'Anse aux Meadows

At the tip of the Great Northern Peninsula of the island of Newfoundland, the remains of an 11th-century Viking settlement are evidence of the first European presence in North America. The excavated remains of wood-framed peat-turf buildings are similar to those found in Norse Greenland and Iceland. Dating to around the year 1000 (carbon dating estimate 990-1050 CE), L'Anse aux Meadows is the only site widely accepted as ...
Founded: 950-1050 AD | Location: Newfoundland, Canada

Cartier-Brébeuf National Historic Site

Cartier-Brébeuf National Historic Site commemorates the second voyage of Jacques Cartier; more precisely in 1535-1536 when he and his shipmates wintered near the Iroquoian village of Stadacona (Quebec City). It also recalls the establishment of the first residence of the Jesuit missionaries in Quebec, in 1625-1626. Moreover, by the end of the 17th century up to the opening of the national historic site in 1972, it host ...
Founded: 1535 | Location: Quebec City, Canada

Prince of Wales Fort

The Prince of Wales Fort is a historic Bastion fort on Hudson Bay across the Churchill River from Churchill, Manitoba. The European history of this area starts with the discovery of Hudson Bay in 1610. The area was recognized as important in the fur trade and of potential importance for other discoveries. The fort is built in a European 'star' shape. The first wooden fort was built in 1717 by James ...
Founded: 1731 | Location: Churchill, Canada

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Porta Nigra

The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.

The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.

In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.

In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.

After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.

In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier"s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept; but the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.

In 1986 the Porta Nigra was designated a World Heritage Site, along with other Roman monuments in Trier and its surroundings. The modern appearance of the Porta Nigra goes back almost unchanged to the reconstruction ordered by Napoleon. At the south side of the Porta Nigra, remains of Roman columns line the last 100 m of the street leading to the gate. Positioned where they had stood in Roman times, they give a slight impression of the aspect of the original Roman street that was lined with colonnades. The Porta Nigra, including the upper floors, is open to visitors.