Univers culturel de Saint-Sulpice – Archives Department

It was in the autumn of 1641 that Jean-Jacques Olier, priest, brought together several other priests who would then establish the parish of Saint-Sulpice in Paris early in 1642.  The small community took the name "Compagnie des Prêtres de Saint-Sulpice" (Society of Priests of Saint Sulpice). In 1657, Jean-Jacques Olier sent the first four Sulpicians to Montreal. It was the beginning of a Sulpician presence in Montreal that has remained to this day. The Sulpicians were central figures in the development of Montreal.  Since their arrival, they have contributed significantly to Montreal’s religious, social, cultural, and economic life, as well as to the advancement of education in the city.
Missionaries, explorers, clergymen and lords, the Sulpicians worked alongside indigenous peoples, Montrealers, and religious communities. Educators and promoters of human development, they established schools from primary to university levels and created libraries for use by the general public. The Sulpicians contributed to the development of hospitals and organizations offering support to those in need. Demonstrating their concern for arts and letters, they patronized and encouraged artists who impacted the spheres of painting, sculpture, architecture, music, and literature.  

Still pursuing their mission with a focus on education, the Priests of Saint Sulpice maintain a presence in Canada, the United States, Rome, Japan, Colombia and Brazil.

The archives conserved at the Séminaire de Saint-Sulpice concern a range of aspects of the religious community’s history and that of Montreal.  The institutional fonds bear witness to the society’s influence in several different areas of activity. These include, for example, in the case of the fonds of the Compagnie des Prêtres de Saint-Sulpice, all of the collections dealing with missions (Montagne, Sault-au-Récollet, Lac-des-Deux-Montagnes, the mission of Kenté, La Présentation, l'Acadie, etc.). Additionally within the archives are documents which reflect the seigneurial administration (Montréal, Lac-des-Deux-Montagnes, Saint-Sulpice), the establishment of parishes and churches on the Island of Montreal and its vicinity (Saint-Sulpice, Lac-des-Deux-Montagnes), collaboration with other religious orders in Montreal offering services in education, hospital care, help to those in need and support to the Catholic Church, and the construction of the first Lachine Canal in order to facilitate navigation, etc.   
Other fonds speak to the community’s involvement in the construction of libraries. Collections from the Cercle Ville-Marie, the Cabinet de lecture paroissiale, and the Bibliothèque paroissiale eventually came together to form the Bibliothèque Saint-Sulpice. 

Fonds from educational institutions are also important testaments to Sulpician involvement: the Collège de Montréal was initially established at Longue-Pointe, the Collège André-Grasset which would become the first classical boarding school, the Grand Séminaire de Montréal for the instruction of clergymen in francophone Canada, the collège Olier, the Séminaire de philosophie, and the Université Laval in Montreal.  
Other fonds speak to the Sulpicians’ more recent presence in Brazil, Colombia, Japan and Rome.

The personal fonds reveal in a more intimate manner the actions taken by the Sulpicians in their professional capacity and in their personal lives. Many of the community’s members have had a significant impact on the history of Montreal from the French regime through current day.

The archives department also oversees the former collections from the Sulpician libraries. A catalogue includes to date over 10,000 rare and antique works belonging to different Sulpician libraries including the library of Séminaire de Saint-Sulpice.

The movable goods department ensures the conservation pf thousands of heritage assets, including works of art, religious and secular decorative arts objects, as well as civilian, household, ethnological, technological and scientific artifacts.

Time span covered by archives: approx. 1643-2019
Technical specifications and maps: 9,000
Iconographic documents: 35,000
Text documents: 550 m.l.
Hours of audio recording: 225
Hours of video recording:130
Number of fonds: 342

In 2006, the Prêtres de Saint-Sulpice de Montréal created the corporation Univers culturel de Saint-Sulpice in accordance with the Religious Corporations Act (L.R.Q., chapter C-71), a continuation of the corporation Les Archives des Prêtres de Saint-Sulpice (1991). They assigned this corporation with the management of their cultural assets.  

According to their Letters Patent, the corporation’s mandate is to acquire, conserve, and administer the archives, antique books, assorted documents, furniture, paintings, and sculptures while making them accessible to researchers and to the public at large.  

Under the authority of the corporation’s administration council, the archives department’s coordinator oversees the execution of a variety of activities involving the archives and rare books. He has under his responsibility an assistant archivist and an archivist for technical assistance. Interns, temporary employees, and volunteers join this team for certain projects. The department’s personnel ensures the organization of the fonds and the archival collections while also promoting their appreciation, diffusion, research, and assistance to researchers.  In 2016, the archives department was recognized as a private archives service certified by the National Archives Library of Quebec. The archives department has been a member of Network of Private Archives Departments of Quebec (RSAPAQ) since 2016.