Built between 1749 and 1752, the Church of the Visitation at Sault-au-Récollet is the oldest church on the Island of Montreal. Located where a set of rapids pass around La Visitation Island in the Riviere-des-Prairies, Sault-au-Récollet was the site of Fort Lorette, a New France fur-trading outpost dating from 1686. The original church was enlarged by the architect John Ostell in 1850 with the addition of a new facade in cut limestone. Today Sault-au-Récollet is a designated heritage site and the Church of the Visitation is a classified historic monument.
Realised over a twenty year period, the project includes the exterior restoration of three religious buildings on this heritage site – the church, the presbytery, and the sexton’s house. The restoration work was an opportunity to reaffirm the symbolic and material integrity of this unique ensemble. The stone masonry, woodwork and artisanal metal roofs of all three structures were restored using traditional materials and techniques.
As an archaeologically sensitive site, excavations at Sault-au-Récollet were carefully planned. The restoration of the church’s rubble stone foundation was coordinated with the presence of burial plots dating from the eighteenth century. Extensive repairs were carried out on the church’s limestone masonry, including Ostell’s 1850 facade. A new stainless steel roof was installed on the presbytery using traditional artisanal techniques. Historic research led to the recreation of the presbytery’s original decorative metal crown. Restorations to the sexton’s house include a new gallery in sculpted wood, new windows, a new metal roof and extensive masonry repairs.