Jeff Frenette Photography
Rue St-Jean runs through the Saint-Jean Gate, a historical monument frequently photographed by tourists. It is one of the entry points through the fortified walls surrounding Old Québec. On the inside of the walls near the gate can be found many shops and restaurants, while Place D’Youville and several concert halls are located just outside.
This iconic gate is part of the fortification system comprising bastions, gates and defensive structures that account for Québec City's renown as a fortified colonial city and the reason Old Québec was named a UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Only three other gates (Kent, Saint-Louis and Prescott) that were part of the original fortifications survive.
What to do at the Saint-Jean Gate
- In the summer, climb the stairs to the top of the gate to admire rue Saint-Jean stretched out below. These stairs also open up onto the walkway running along the top of the fortifications. As you follow this walkway to two of the other three gates in the stone walls, you will marvel at the view of Old Québec afforded from this vantage point.
- In the winter, the snowy scene before the gate is simply magical, with twinkling Christmas decorations and people skating on the illuminated rink in Place d’Youville. As pretty as a postcard!
The history of the Saint-Jean Gate
The original Saint-Jean Gate was built in the late 17th century during the French Regime. At the time, it was located farther east, near rue Sainte-Ursule. In approximately 1770, it was moved to its current location.
During the British Regime, the army closed the gate doors at night to restrict travel between the city and outlying areas, which disrupted trade and hampered the city's development. When the British troops left in 1871, the gate doors were removed to permit traffic to flow freely.
Appreciative of the historical value of this architectural treasure, the newly appointed Governor General of Canada, Lord Dufferin, was opposed to having the ramparts and gates torn down. He, along with an Irish architect specializing in the reconstruction of medieval military structures, developed a plan to preserve and enhance these defensive works. The result of their efforts are the fortifications and gates seen today. The current Saint-Jean Gate dates back to 1939 and is similar in style to the Saint-Louis and Kent Gates built nearly 60 years earlier. The Saint-Jean Gate and the fortifications are now managed by Parks Canada.