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Repentigny, Quebec, was once a favored destination for Montreal residents looking for a quiet beach vacation. Today, the 8-kilometre-long beach remains a Repentigny attraction, where visitors walking along the paths in Parc d’Ile Lebel can enjoy striking views of Ile Marie and Ile Bouchard in the St. Lawrence River.

Repentigny is a major city in Quebec’s pastoral Lanaudière region, nestled between the St. Lawrence River and the Laurentian Mountains. The city of more than 90,000 people is located at the mouth of L’Assomption River, 35 kilometres north of Montreal along le Chemin du Roy (King’s Road). Completed in 1737, le Chemin du Roy is one of Canada’s oldest highways and follows the St. Lawrence River from Montreal to Quebec City, as it leads tourists through some of the province’s earliest villages.

Touring Repentigny and the Lanaudière is an excellent way to explore the history of Quebec and its settlement by French expatriates in the 16th century. New France’s fortunes were tightly bound to the religious beliefs of this predominantly Catholic community, and visiting the many architecturally significant churches in the Lanaudière region helps Repentigny visitors acquaint themselves with the past.

Some buildings boast a storied past. L’Eglise de la Purification-de-la-Bienheureuse-Vierge-Marie, on Repentigy’s historic rue Nôtre Dame, was declared a historic monument in 1978, 300 years after its founding by French settlers. The original church was moved from its initial location and rebuilt from a wooden structure to one of stone in 1723. The church you see today was built atop the old stone remains and is considered the oldest church in the Montreal diocese. A fire in October 1984 damaged the church’s interior, but most of its original decorations were spared.

L’Eglise Sainte-Geneviève de Berthier church in Berthierville, 46 kilometres north of Repentigny, is the oldest in the Joliette diocese. Founded in 1787, the church was declared a historic monument more than two centuries later. The inside of the church has been transformed into an art museum and features works by renowned Canadian artists. The outside of the church offers a fine example of French-Canadian architecture. Berthierville is also the home of Cuthbert Chapel, Quebec’s oldest existing Protestant church. Chapel guides offer tours, and guests can view an exhibition of historic photos.

Rosalie Cadron House in Lavaltrie, 20 kilometres north of Repentigny, is another attraction of historic significance. In 1794, Rosalie Cadron-Jetté was born in this quaint, green-shuttered house. From adulthood until her death in 1864, Cadron-Jetté raised 11 children and founded the Misericordia Sisters, a society dedicated to helping unmarried mothers. The house-museum features gardens, a baker’s oven and period furniture, as well as exhibition and workshop spaces.

While in Repentigny, visitors can explore several other places of interest, including Ile-des-Moulins, a restored 19th-century village. In Saint-Lin-Laurentides, 38 kilometres west of Repentigny, the Sir Wilfrid Laurier National Historic Site of Canada commemorates the life and work of Canada’s first French-Canadian Prime Minister, who governed the country from 1896 to 1911.