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Le Trait-Carré, 1937
Studio Edwards. ©
City Archives,
W.-B. Edwards collection
(reproduction interdite / reproduction prohibited)

L'initiative des jesuite

Wishing to push the population of the seigniory forward into the forest, the Jesuits undertook to establish a burg or a village on the hillside overlooking the valley of the Saint Charles River. This initiative followed a Royal decree promulgated in 1663 by Louis XIV, King of France. This ruling obliges the citizens to come together in villages or small towns, based on the European model.

Established by the Jesuits in February 1665, the Trait-Carré of Charlesbourg represents the first attempt to colonize the interior lands (those not located on a major waterway). The implementation of a new system, called the radian system, astonished by its originality. Its star-shaped configuration differs enormously from other models known until then by conferring to each parcel a trapezoid form.


The Planning for Trait-Carré

Once the location of the village was determined, the Jesuits began work. They had an area of about 25 arpents cleared, ensuring however, that five arpents in the centre wass reserved for construction of a church, a presbytery and a cemetery. The remaining space was to serve as common pasture for the villagers’ livestock. And, on each side of this perimeter bounded by a road called * Trait-Carré *, abut the lands that form a trapezoid shape covering an area of 40 arpents. Forty lots in all, 10 on each side, form the initial star-shaped village planned by the Jesuits. Between February 22 and February 28, 1665, the Jesuits ceded about 30 lots to as many colonists in the village of Charlesbourg. These new residents must build their homes around the Trait-Carré. *

Three important periods marked the history of Trait-Carré without altering the heart of this traditional village. During the first period, from 1665 to 1840, the unique cadastral structure of Trait-Carré was put in place. A few of the village’s buildings from that era remain, the Jesuits’ Mill (circa 1740) being an eloquent example.

The period from 1840 to 1950 is the most important in the history of Trait-Carré, because it is in that hundred year period that most of the main buildings making up the heritage of Charlesbourg were constructed. The third and last period is marked by the decade of the 1950s. New urban infrastructures required by the arrival of suburbanites were added to the traditional image of Trait-Carré. When following the pedestrian circuit of Trait-Carré, one notices the singular cadastral form that still distinguishes the city in the very design of its main arteries.