Mount Saint-Joseph: From Pilgrims to Outdoor Enthusiasts
Considered a sacred site by the Mi’kmaq and then a place of pilgrimage for Catholics, Mount Saint-Joseph in Carleton-sur-Mer is now a popular hiking, climbing and mountain-biking destination.
Sacred site and place of pilgrimage
Mount Saint-Joseph is considered a sacred site by the first inhabitants of what is now Carleton-sur-Mer, the Mi’kmaq, who gather on the mountain to ask their ancestors for guidance. The mountain is also a place of pilgrimage for Catholics: the first pilgrimage took place in 1868. A statue of the Sacred Heart was then placed at the top of the mountain by Mother Marie-Anne Marcelle Mallet, of the Sisters of Charity. Later, a 7-metre cross was erected in 1878.
In the 1920s, pilgrimages to Mount Saint-Joseph became increasingly popular. A road was built up the mountain in 1932, which made it easier to get to the top. This road also made it possible for a Breton-style chapel made of field stones to be built at 555 metres in altitude; the chapel was inaugurated in 1936.
While the chapel was dedicated to St. Joseph, devotions to the Virgin were added in 1954. The building was then named the Notre-Dame-du-Mont-Saint-Joseph oratory. Many people have visited over the years to make pilgrimages, admire the chapel or participate in pagan events. About 30,000 pilgrims climbed the mountain in 1958 alone.
In the early 1960s, the road became increasingly accessible and safe. Masses were held regularly in the chapel, attracting many locals and tourists. The building was in fact extended in 1965 to better accommodate the flow of visitors. Inside, a superb mosaic symbolizes the royalty of Mary. The nave is adorned with a marble floor, and the walls are made of unpolished travertine.
In 2003, the Notre-Dame-du-Mont-Saint-Joseph oratory was recognized as a heritage site by the town of Carleton-sur-Mer.
Developing the mountain: Hiking, climbing and a multimedia show
Mount Saint-Joseph is part of a network of hiking trails linking the municipalities of Carleton-sur-Mer and Maria. This network, which is still under development, currently offers 15 km of intermediate trails featuring streams and waterfalls. Dotted with bridges, staircases and lookouts, these trails offer stunning panoramic views of the surrounding area.
The top of the mountain is accessible via hiking trails or a paved road. At the very top, a lookout offers an exceptional view of Carleton-sur-Mer and Chaleur Bay, which is recognized as one of the most beautiful bays in the world.
In addition, several activities have been developed on the mountain in recent years or are currently under development. Today, the mountain offers 12 km of intermediate mountain bike trails and 10 beginner and intermediate climbing routes on natural walls with breathtaking views. The site is also a member of Les Grimpeurs de l’Est (an association of climbers in Eastern Québec) and the Fédération québécoise de la montagne et de l’escalade (Québec’s mountain climbing federation).
Development of the mountain will continue in the summer of 2019. Community areas, including a campfire circle, will be available. A new visitors centre will also be built, as will five geodomes offering comfortable and unusual accommodations on the mountainside. With large windows overlooking the Carleton-sur-Mer Barachois, these units will provide you with amazing views.
In addition, a multimedia show designed by Faiseux de Berlue will be presented at the top of the mountain in the summer of 2019. Thanks to an architectural projection in the chapel, the public will be able to enjoy a digital sound and light experience related to the mountain. The soundtrack will be created by Guillaume Campion, a composer and sound artist from Gaspésie.
To be in the loop and find out more about Mount Saint-Joseph in Carleton-sur-Mer, visit tourisme-gaspesie.com and plan your trip today! #gaspesie
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