An uncertain future reopening plan for the Cyclorama

Since the Cyclorama was classified as a heritage asset in 2019, a showdown has pitted its owners against the Ministry of Culture and Communications (MCC).

The latter tried on many occasions, but without success, to bring the Blouin family, master of the place since 1957, to carry out the maintenance and repair work necessary for the preservation of the building and the panoramic canvas entitled Jerusalem on the Day of the Crucifixion.

It is the only panorama that has been preserved in Quebec and Canada, and the only one in North America to be exhibited in its original rotunda.

Section of a panoramic canvas depicting the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

Painted in the United States in the 1880s, the panorama “Jerusalem on the Day of the Crucifixion” has been exhibited in Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré since 1895. (Archives)

Photo: Radio-Canada / Sebastien Vachon

The owners claim that they simply do not have the financial means to ensure the sustainability of the Cyclorama, despite the obligations incumbent on them under the Cultural Heritage Law.

Article 26 of the law stipulates that any owner of a classified heritage property must take the necessary measures to ensure the preservation of the heritage value of this property.

Issuance of a prescription

On March 18, 2022, the Superior Court of Quebec authorized the Minister of Culture, Nathalie Roy, and her representatives to carry out a series of works on the structure and the frame of the roof, and to take the necessary ancillary measures to preserve the heritage value of the building.

To finance the execution of the work, the MCC will register a legal hypothec in the amount of their actual cost. The latest estimates show expenditures amounting to nearly $250,000.

If the Blouin family succeeds in selling the building, they will have to repay the Ministry before they can collect any eventual profit.

The Jerusalem Cyclorama and its sign in summer.

The Jerusalem Cyclorama ceased operations on October 14, 2018. (Archives)

Photo: Sotheby’s International Realty

For the owners, the upcoming works pave the way for a resumption of Cyclorama activities. Cultural development consultant Annie Lévesque acts as the Blouin family’s representative to the MCC.

She explains that the desired reopening of the Cyclorama aims to make it more attractive to potential buyers.

We are working hard on this file. [celui de la vente, NDRL]. In fact, that’s why we clean it up, make it interesting, make it beautiful. At the moment, we have reactivated the shop, we are open by appointment, we are organizing ourselves so that the Cyclorama is attractivesays Ms. Lévesque in an interview on the show First Hour.

Security issues

However, the reopening of the Cyclorama is not scheduled for tomorrow morning. The owners admit having no idea when the roof of the main building will be able to accommodate visitors.

Does the Ministry of Culture deem the roof too dangerous for people to enter? […] That’s a very good questionconcedes Annie Lévesque. Since the judgment of March 18, there has been no news from the Ministry […]. We have no contact with contractors and architects. So we still don’t know [si] we can reopen or not.

The exterior facade of the Jerusalem Cyclorama souvenir shop in summer.

The Cyclorama souvenir shop has resumed its activities in recent weeks. (Archives)

Photo: Radio-Canada / Sebastien Vachon

For his part, the MCC said to be still in communication with the owners of the Cyclorama. In an email, Minister Nathalie Roy’s office states thatno reopening plan has been submitted to it to date.

The objective of MCC is to ensure the sustainability of the property. the MCC is currently making every effort to ensure that the work is completed before the winter periodcan we read in the message.

Radio-Canada asked the owner’s representative, Annie Lévesque, for an interview with the president of the Cyclorama board of directors, Pierre Blouin. Our request has so far remained unanswered.

With the collaboration of Audrey Paris, Claudius Bernatchez and Yannick Bergeron

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