Montreal

Quebec announces $20M in funds to preserve province's religious heritage

Support for preserving religious heritage was a Coalition Avenir Québec campaign promise. Funds will help restore buildings, fixtures and works of art in several regions around Quebec.

Money will go towards restoration, preservation and repurposing churches for other use

The funding will go towards restoring and preserving religious buildings around the province. (Jean-Simon Fabien/Radio-Canada)

The Quebec government is investing $20 million to preserve and restore buildings and art with religious and cultural heritage value.

Nathalie Roy, the province's Minister of Culture and Communications, made the announcement Sunday at the Sainte-Famille Church in Boucherville. Support for preserving religious heritage was a Coalition Avenir Québec campaign promise.

Of the total package, some $15 million will be spent restoring buildings, fixtures — such as organs — and works of art in several regions around Quebec. The stained glass windows at the Sainte-Famille Church, dating to 1801, are an example of a restoration projects already selected for this year.

The grants will cover up to 80 per cent of costs.

The remaining $5 million will be used to repurpose churches for other uses.

The announcement was praised by Cardinal Gérald Cyprien Lacroix, the archbishop of Quebec, who said religious institutions can't keep up with the maintenance needs of the province's aging places of worship.

"The significant decrease in religious practice and the significant increase in maintenance and restoration costs" mean Quebec's religious institutions "can't bear alone the future of these places of worship of great architectural, artistic and cultural value," Lacroix said.

While many buildings are in need of restoration across the province, only projects that meet a set of criteria will receive grants, Roy said.

The buildings' age, architecture, interior decor and artwork will be taken into account. The requests are reviewed by the Conseil du patrimoine religieux, a non-profit organization that supports and promotes the conservation and enhancement of Quebec's religious heritage.

"Every village has a church," said the council's president, Josée Grandmont. "We talk about secularism, but people know that a church is also a meeting place. They are, to some extent, the cultural heritage of Quebec."

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