The Émile-Nelligan Library

Meeting point

Entrance to the Émile-Nelligan Library, on the north side of the sacristy behind the church.

In February 2015, the public library was named the Bibliothèque Émile-Nelligan and was relocated in the sacristy of the Church of Saint-Georges in Cacouna. The church was declared a historical monument in 1957.

Photo source:
Yvan Roy, May 2016

Library and its Nelligan’s section

Inside the sacristy of the Church of Saint-Georges, converted into the Émile-Nelligan library in 2015.

The library has a section featuring books and objects related to Nelligan’s life in Cacouna. There are several works by biographer Paul Wyczynski, including "Nelligan à Cacouna" (2004), a book co-authored with local historian Yvan Roy, recounting the events that led to the resurgence of interest in Nelligan here in Cacouna.

Photo source :
Yvan Roy, February 2015

Nelligan and Cacouna, 1886-1898

This small coastal village in the Bas-Saint-Laurent was the Nelligan family’s favourite destination for their summer holidays.

Over a twelve-year period from 1886 to 1898, young Émile visited Cacouna with his family for several extended stays. The family would arrive by boat or by train, the Grand Trunk Railway having begun service from Lévis to Rivière-du-Loup in 1860 and the Intercolonial Railway in 1876. With his mother, Émilie Amanda Hudon, and his two sisters, Éva and Gertrude, Émile went on holiday in early July to return to Montreal in late August. This became somewhat of a tradition, as his father, David Nelligan, was deputy postal inspector for the Gaspésie. Cacouna, being midway between Montréal and Gaspé, was the perfect place for him to combine work with a family holiday. The family usually took rooms at Cacouna House, but sometimes David Nelligan rented a very elegant small private house for the summer, as a sort of country home.

Photo source:
Poscard, West part of Cacouna circa 1925, "Rivard Series", éditeur, Richard Michaud Collection

Young Émile discovers Cacouna

Émile spent his summers in Cacouna from 1886 until 1898.

Although Émile did not choose Cacouna – like any young child, he went where his parents took him – he was quick to explore all the village had to offer.  And Cacouna had so much for a child like Émile to discover, things he wouldn’t find in the city: vast fields to get lost in, beaches to explore for hours, low tides revealing nearly a kilometre of mysterious tidal pools, fiery red sunsets over the St. Lawrence and its islands. And each escapade provided chance encounters with birds, groundhogs, porcupines, butterflies, ladybugs, crickets and more. The music of the wind rustling through the fields and trees. The smell of new mown hay.

And the vast St. Lawrence estuary with its sea breezes, salt sprays, the scent of seaweed at low tide, the fog rolling in and dissipating, sometimes revealing the shape of a ship, arriving from unknown ports, carrying mysterious treasures. The mighty river, open to the world, whether real or imagined. An infinite horizon for the eyes and the soul.

Photo source :
Background : A village view from the wharf. Postcard "Rivard Series" éditeur, Richard Michaud Collection
Medalions : Young Émile at 7, 10, 14, 16 years old. Nelligan à Cacouna p.183

Nelligan’s favourite places

Nelligan’s essential Cacouna.

We have carefully selected Nelligan’s favourite places to spend time in Cacouna. This tour will introduce you to his sources of inspiration, references to which are found throughout his poetry.

Photo source :
Aerial view of Cacouna in 1927. ANQ, Fonds MTF

Mythic places

Deeply rooted in the heart of village life, many of these sites were important engines of development for nearly a century.

The train station’s glory days lasted from its construction in 1872 until 1960. It was torn down in 1962.

Built in 1857, the convent of the Sœurs de la Charité was demolished in 1982. In its place, the Vents-et-Marées elementary school was constructed in 1983.

The Saint Lawrence Hall was built in 1862 and 1863, to be destroyed by fire in 1903. Nine years later, a businessman from Quebec City, Frank W. Ross, built an elegant “cottage” on the vacant land.

Photo source :
Cacouna Station, 1912 and Cacouna Convent of Cacouna, early 1900: Postcards E. Rivard, éditeur, Richard Michaud Collection
Facade of the St. Lawrence Hall, circa 1890. Archives Nationales du Québec, Fonds Livernois (P560, S1, P 350)
Same places, today : Where the Cacouna Station was, Vents-et-Marées primary school and Clinique chiropratique Cacouna. Photos Yvan Roy 2003

The small stained glass window

A stained glass window in the Church of Saint-Georges in Cacouna and the nearby depiction of the crucifixion.

“‘Petit Vitrail’ is a kind of elaborate arabesque woven of thirteen alexandrines, in which the music of the images and the movement of the repetitions suffuse the poem with a mystical shimmer. Someday I would be delighted to see this ‘Petit Vitrail’ displayed as an ‘arabesque of palm fronds’ – with its patterns, colours and light – in a window of the Church of Saint-Georges to commemorate Nelligan’s stays in Cacouna.” (Paul Wyczynski, in Nelligan à Cacouna, p.31)
Photo source :
Yvan Roy

"Petit Vitrail"

“Petit Vitrail’’

Jésus à barbe blonde, aux yeux de saphir tendre,
Sourit dans un vitrail ancien du défunt chœur
Parmi le vol sacré des chérubins en chœur
Qui se penchent vers Lui pour l’aimer et l’entendre.
Des oiseaux de Sion aux claires ailes calmes
Sont là dans le soleil qui poudroie en délire,
Et c’est doux comme un vers de maître sur la lyre.
De voir ainsi, parmi l’arabesque des palmes,
Dans ce petit vitrail où le soir va descendre,
Sourire, en sa bonté mystique, au fond du chœur,
Le Christ à barbe d’or, aux yeux de saphir tendre.

Sonnet dedicated to Denys Lanctôt (1896)

It is the solemn hour of calm and silence ... in the Church of Saint-Georges at sunset.

“The recitation of Nelligan’s sonnet ‘Nocturne’ is extraordinarily appropriate to begin the narrative of the events surrounding his time in Cacouna. Dedicated to his friend Denys Lanctôt, inspired by evensong – the ‘solemn hour’ – at the Church of Saint-Georges in Cacouna, the poem was published in Le Samedi on August 15, 1896, under the pseudonym Émile Kovar.”

“The sonnet is Nelligan’s fifth poem, published in 1896... ‘Nocturne’ was probably composed in July, 1896... Very likely, it was during his family’s summer holidays in Cacouna in 1896 that Nelligan really fell in love with poetry.”  (Paul Wyczynski, in Nelligan à Cacouna, p.17-18)

Photo source :
Yvan Roy, November 2003



C’est l’heure solennelle et calme du silence,
L’Angélus a sonné notre prière à Dieu;
Le cœur croyant sommeille en un repos immense,
Noyé dans les parfums languissants du Saint-Lieu.

C’est l’heure du pardon et de la pénitence,
C’est bien l’heure où l’on fait notre plus chaste aveu,
Où nos yeux ruisselants, pleurs de reconnaissance,
Retrouvent à la fin l’ardeur du premier feu.

Ô Soir si consolant pour mon cœur ravagé,
Soir de miséricorde au pécheur affligé
Qui demande à son Dieu la manne bienfaisante,

Pénètre de ton ombre une âme à la tourmente,
Recueillement subit du passé dans ton sein,
Pour qu’elle puisse avoir paix et joie au Matin.

Extract of
Following in the Steps of Nelligan

Following in the Steps of Nelligan image circuit

Presented by : Corporation de développement de Cacouna
Get There

Download the BaladoDiscovery app (for Android and iOS) and access the largest network of self-guided tour experiences in Canada.