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Daily Life

Living in community

As the years passed and as various challenges arose, the Ursulines demonstrated creativity, resourcefulness and resilience. The workshops they set up in their monasteries—shoe repair, soap making, bakeries, wardrobes, linen rooms, carpentry, laundry rooms, and so forth—attest to this. Having great respect for their predecessors, the Ursulines diligently saved numerous items over the years that depicted their community’s day-to-day life, as well as that of their students. The various objects and documents they collected take us on a journey into their lives punctuated by prayer, teaching, learning, manual labor, meals, silence and celebrations.


Faience (tin-glazed earthenware), glaze and paint
Nevers, France
Circa 1745–1770
10 x 34 x 23 cm

This planter is from Nevers, a French region famous for its high-quality faience. In the 18th century, factories from other regions generated keen interest in the rocaille style. The Nevers factory responded to this craze with its own “chicory and fern” decorative motif, shown here.

Faience is made of clay raw materials that are dried and then fired at a high temperature. The piece is then dipped in a glaze that whitens it so designs can be painted on it. It is then fired again to set the designs and fuse the glaze.

Faience is a very fragile material. Few pieces dating prior to the Conquest of New France have been found in their entirety.

Cruet stand

Faience (tin-glazed earthenware), glaze and paint
Moustiers, France
9 x 25 x 14 cm

This faience piece holds two glass bottles filled with oil or vinegar. This cruet stand is attributed to the factories in Moustiers, known for the quality of their faience. Beginning in 1740, these factories developed various types of floral ornamentation, including the “jasmine flower” motif shown here.

The shades of yellow used in the design are characteristic influences of the rocaille style, popularized in the second half of the 18th century. In French, the word “rocaille” refers to rocks and is used figuratively to suggest an irregular appearance. This style is recognized by varied and often asymmetrical shapes.

A distinctive feature of this cruet stand’s design is the depiction of satyr faces. Satyrs are mythological creatures with the body of a man, the feet of a goat and horns on the head. The rocaille style draws on a great number of influences, one of which is the mythological influence we see here!

Water pitcher

Faience (tin-glazed earthenware) and glaze
Rouen, France
First half of the 18th century
17 x 15 x 12 cm

Faience from Rouen was in its heyday in the 17th century. In the following century, King Louis XIV issued an order to melt down tableware made of precious metals to replenish the royal coffers, which had been depleted by wars. As a result, the nobility turned to faience as a replacement, creating a real craze for this material.

The Rouen factory enjoyed a monopoly granted by Queen Anne of Austria. In the 18th century, the factory developed a lambrequin design, an example of which can be seen on this water pitcher. With Asian influences, the design consists of a repetition of the same elements in shades of blue.

It was also in the 18th century that the Rouen factory began using the color red more frequently in its pieces, after becoming better adept at working with this color. Made with iron oxide, red does not penetrate porcelain as well, which can create a slightly raised surface on the area in which it is applied.

Bread box

Wood and iron
Artisan made
17th century
62 x 90 x 26 cm

This small bread box is one of the objects that the Ursulines link to Marie of the Incarnation. According to oral tradition, the founder of the Ursulines of Quebec City is said to have kneaded bread on this wooden box. 

The Ursulines in Quebec City used it until 1841, the year in which they began buying their bread. 

The bread box was one of the objects showcased in the community’s first museum, which opened in 1936.

Bouillotte lamp

Artisan made
18th century
50 x 35 x 17 cm

The bouillotte lamp is a small portable light fixture with adjustable shades that can be raised or lowered to control the intensity of the lighting and to keep pace with the burning candles. It was originally created for game rooms. Its name comes from the card game of chance and luck called bouillotte, which dates from the 1770s. The game was popular until the middle of the 19th century.

Butter marker

Artisan made
19th century
6 x 8 cm

Butter makers used an object like this one to sign their blocks of butter before selling them. Since the nuns did not sell their butter, their markers were used only for decoration. Great finesse was used in fashioning the leaves and petals of this richly detailed rose.


Wood, iron, ceramic and varnish
Before 1890
57 x 92 x 50 cm

Each boarding student had a piece of furniture like this one next to her bed. It was designed to hold a basin and water pitcher as well as various hygiene products and accessories like soap dishes.

Chocolate box

Wood, metal, paper, ink and glue
Menier Chocolate, France
Circa 1900
12 x 29 x 22 cm

French chocolate maker Menier was among the first, if not the first, to sell wrapped chocolate bars in the first half of the 19th century, contributing to its popularization. This box of 12 bars still bears the name of the chocolatier.

Soup plate

Ceramic and glaze
William Adams & Sons
3 x 15 cm

This fine terracotta plate is painted with blue vegetal designs. Like the vast majority of the pottery sold in Quebec in the 19th century, this plate is from England. It was produced in Staffordshire by manufacturer William Adams & Sons.

Decorative bowl

Ceramic, glaze, paint and gold
R.S. Prussia Company
8 x 19 cm

The inscription “R.S. Prussia” can be found on the underside of this piece of fine china. This is how the Reinhold Schlegelmilch Company in Suhl (now Germany) signed its ceramics. Highly sought after by collectors today, these ceramics have been counterfeited many times… but this one’s the real thing!

Low armoire

Wood and iron
Artisan made
17th century
136 x 110 x 56 cm

The upper shelf of this Louis XIII–style armoire is made of three boards assembled with tongue and groove construction. The four side panels are decorated with raised paneling, and the door is double leaf.

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