Je Me Souviens
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Samuel de Champlain
Samuel de Champlain’s statue is an allegorical figure. Allegories are symbols and signs that tell stories. These were very common when people were less literate. Think of justice usually sculpted as a blindfolded woman with a set of scales in one hand and a sword in the other. The largest allegorical figure we all know is the Statue of Liberty, in New York City. She is depicted holding an eternal flame of Freedom and a book of laws.
Below Champlain an angel holds a trumpet, symbolizing the welcoming of a hero into the Kingdom of Heaven.
Champlain died on Christmas day of 1635. One of the secrets lost to history is the exact place where he was buried. Quebec was a frontier outpost in 1635 and few records were kept. Over 300 years after his death, his grave continues to be a mystery.
He married at the age of 42. Helene, his wife was 12 when they were wed. Back they noblemen married to form alliances, not for love. Dowries often dictated who would wed who.
These arrangements worked well for the men, but not for the girls. They were treated like property and sold to the highest bidder (often married to men they have never met or seen before).
After marrying Helene in France, Champlain returned to Quebec. He would not see her for another 10 years. When she joined him in Quebec City at the age of 22, she was a young lady of fashion used to the glamour of the French court.
Their marriage wasn’t a great success. Helene spent most of time on lonely walks on Terrace Dufferin where the statue is located. Mirrors were a rare commodity in the new world and she had one of the few here in Quebec. The natives and settlers were terrified – they believed that when they saw themselves in the mirror their souls were being stolen.
Helene stayed in Quebec for 4 years. During that time Champlain only mentions her twice in his diaries. Once when she arrived and once when she left for Paris to join her family.
Upon Champlain’s death she joined a convent as this was common for the widows of noblemen in those days.
Thankfully, times have changed considerably since. Be taken back to a time when mores and customs were different and learn more about the French culture and history as you visit Quebec City with your student group on foreign language experience or class trip.