A crucifix has been returned to the wall of a Quebec City hospital after an earlier decision to take it down prompted complaints, a petition and what officials considered a "serious threat."

The cross, which is just under a metre in length, was put back overnight in its original spot, between two elevators near the entrance of the Saint-Sacrement Hospital.

'This crucifix recalls the importance of the contribution of the religious communities to the construction of this hospital.' - Plaque below crucifix in Saint-Sacrement Hospital

A temporary plaque was also added to explain the religious heritage of the building and the fact that hospitals in the province are now secular institutions. A permanent plaque will be put up in the next few months.

"Health-care facilities in Quebec have been secular for many years," reads the plaque, written in French.

"This crucifix recalls the importance of the contribution of the religious communities to the construction of this hospital."

Saint-Sacrement said it had received at least 600 phone calls about the decision to remove the religious symbol, which was prompted by a single complaint. A petition opposing the removal was signed by thousands of people.​

In a news release Wednesday, the hospital's administration (CHU de Québec) said it would be reinstalled "at the demand of the health ministry" by the end of the day.

What's in a symbol?

Religious symbols have long been a point of contention in Quebec, a predominantly Roman Catholic province that largely abandoned the Church during the so-called Quiet Revolution of the 1960s.

The controversy had echoes of a debate over the crucifix on display in the province's National Assembly, which flared up in 2013 when the Parti Québécois goverment proposed a secular Charter of Values.

hospital crucifix

A plaque on below the crucifix explains the building's religious heritage. (Catou MacKinnon/CBC)

Citing its historical significance, the PQ government of the time said it would make an exception for the cross at the legislature, as well as the huge cross at the top of Mount Royal. 

On Tuesday, hospital officials said they received a "serious threat" over the decision to remove the crucfix. 

Quebec City police Const. David Poitras said in a statement a man in his 50s was arrested Tuesday in connection with threats made toward the hospital.

The man, who was not identified and has not been charged, is from Quebec City.

He was released on a promise to appear in court at a later date.

Cardinal welcomes decision

The hospital's change of heart came a day after the Archbishop of Quebec expressed disappointment at the institution's decision to withdraw the crucifix from its premises.

Cardinal Gérald Cyprien Lacroix

Cardinal Gérald Cyprien Lacroix was disappointed with the decision to remove the crucifix. (Alessandra Tarantino/Associated Press)

Cardinal Gérald Cyprien Lacroix said Tuesday the move constituted a lack of respect toward the history of the hospital, which was founded in 1927 by the Sisters of Charity of Quebec.

On Wednesday, Lacroix welcomed the about-turn.

"This is a wise decision that respects the heritage, the historic and the religious aspects of the crucifix,'' he said.

With files from The Canadian Press