A former Neo-Romanesque monastery in excellent condition is about to fall under the demolition of Berthierville, to make room for housing development, to the chagrin of defenders of religious heritage.
The imposing building that has already housed 45 Dominican women was sold last week by the nuns. The buyer, a contractor, obtained the demolition permit on Monday, even though the building is part of the religious heritage inventory of the MRC Autray.
“The municipality granted the demolition permit but did not consult anyone,” said Maryse St-Amand, Executive Director of the Berthier Heritage Corporation. This is shocking, because the RCM recommends the safeguarding of the building and indicates that the municipality should protect the building. ”
According to a sheet produced by the MRC Autray, the former Dominican monastery of Berthierville, built in 1934, has an “exceptional” heritage value and its state of preservation is “excellent”.
The entrepreneur who bought it confirms to La Presse that the demolition must begin “in the coming weeks”. But according to André St-Martin, the building has no heritage value. “It’s not heritage, if it had been heritage we would not have the license,” says the president of Construction Germain St-Martin.
Why is the municipality of Berthierville able to demolish a building that the MRC recommends protecting? Wednesday afternoon, the mayor was not available for an interview.
The nuns are sorry to see the fate of their former monastery. But the Dominicans explain that they had no choice but to sell, as the maintenance costs of the building were too heavy to bear.
“It was difficult to find a buyer because the building is large and Berthierville is not a huge city,” said Micheline Turcotte, Dominican nuns.
“We left Berthierville for Shawinigan in 2012, and we’ve been looking for a buyer for seven years. It’s expensive to maintain this monastery and something had to be done. ”
“But it’s a very, very beautiful monastery, with a beautiful Romanesque architecture in it. It’s sad for us to see him go, but we had no choice, “she says.
The proponent intends to move forward with the destruction. “People panic seven, eight years later. There are people who have just discovered the building, it has been abandoned for seven years! “Says Andre St-Martin.
The Heritage Corporation of Berthier would like explanations from the municipality. M me St-Amand says that a consultation process to find a community oriented to the monastery had been engaged.
“And all of a sudden, we learn that it’s going to be demolished. Can we be informed? It’s a part of our history, our heritage, she says. How was this decision made without consulting the public? Everyone is pretty well in shock. ”