Monday, July 4, 2011

Day 4: Wayside Shrines (Croix de Chemin) in Québec

Day 4 Tour Description
St Jean sur Richelieu to Knowlton
Rides of 51, 53 or 58 miles

Most of this ride is through flat countryside, ending with easy climbs after Bromont and around Lac Brome. A dedicated bike path can be used to shorten the beginning.  Cross a covered bridge while following the river road. Enjoy the atmosphere of Bromont and visit its chocolate museum. Ride along the beautiful shoreline of Lac Brome. Arrive at Auberge Knowlton, a historic inn and our home for the next two days.

While cycling through southern Québec we passed many wayside crosses or shrines, a European Catholic tradition continued throughout Québec. The painter Horatio Walker who captured everyday Québec peasant life, made several paintings of farmers pausing to pray at wayside shrines.

According to the Encyclopedia of French Cultural Heritage in North America many wayside shrines remain:

"Nearly 3,000 wayside crosses are still standing along the highways and byways of the Province of Quebec. They represent a precious heritage - a legacy of the past. The first crosses were erected by Jacques Cartier as a symbol of territorial appropriation. Later, the pioneers used them to mark the founding of a village and French Canadian peasant farmers (then known as habitants) did the same upon staking their land claims. All sorts of reasons have led French Canadians to put up wayside crosses: farmers set them up close to their fields for divine protection; parish priests erected them to indicate the site of a future church; parishioners raised them up on the halfway point along a concession or range road, where they would gather for the evening prayer. Although wayside crosses are first and foremost religious objects, over time they have taken on a more heritage-oriented significance, their distinctive outline characterizing a particularity of the Quebec countryside that has come to be associated with the faith of the French Canadian forefathers."  

Although the numbers of wayside shrines in Québec are less than in decades past, they are still present in the rural landscape where we cycled.  Here are photos of six wayside shrines we saw on our trip.


  1. My husband is from Spain, and we saw many of these shrines touring the Spanish countryside. They were often in the middle of nowhere, not even by a road, but on top of hills or in the middle of fields of crops. Perhaps the roads used to go that way once?

  2. Or perhaps to bless the crops and bring an abundant harvest?

  3. Usually when local peasants ( farmers ) heard the noon church bells peel they would pause to pray the angelous. Carol.