LIBRARY OF THE
The library of the Seminary of Saint-Hyacinthe
exists since its foundation in 1811 by my lord the priest Antoine
Girouard (1762-1832). At first, the collection was very modest and it
was taking up few shelves in a very small room. This old room was situated in
the earliest buildings who were destroyed by fire or modifyed by construction.
The room was always kept locked because they do not want to lose controll on
the books contained in it.
If you read the two volumes entitled "
Histoire du Séminaire de Saint-Hyacinthe depuis sa
fondation jusqu'à nos jours : 1811 un siècle 1911 ", who were
written by Mgr Charles-Philippe Choquette (1856-1947), you
could discover some mere details about the library. Here is some of them :
In 1825, Mgr Jean-Jacques Lartigue (1777-1840),
the first Bishop of Montreal, was writing in his multiple correspondence that the
library collection of the Seminary of Saint-Hyacinthe was composed of 450 titles.
At this time, it was good in regard of the means available.
In 1866, it was reported that the Seminary, has received the legacy of
the abbot Jean Olivier Chèvrefils (1790-1833) that was
containing ; 729 books, 14 maps et 65 engravings. This legacy represented at
that time, one of the largest private library owned in Lower Canada.
In 1878, a letter from the Father Superior of this epoch reports that
the library was situated in the room in front of his own bedroom. The
library was remodeled during some constructions projects. Its room was
enlarged by destroying many rooms used by the Father Bursar, the Father Assistant
Director, the maids, and the kitchen's staircase. The only architectural
details described by Mgr Choquette, was about the ceiling's ornaments installed
In 1911, during the Seminary's centenary feasts, the Fathers anounced
that they will build a new library. They will have to destroy the physics
room, the chemistry laboratory and the museums rooms. Meanwhile, to maintain
library services to the students, they create smalls libraries of few shelves
containing some hundreds books in each Rhetoric and Belles-Lettres
In 1927, they decide to erect a new library on the site where it is
From 1927 to today, the position of the
librarian was occupyed by many priests and few seculars. The library of
the Seminary of Saint-Hyacinthe was opened only for the priests living at the
Seminary. The students of the private school were not allowed to use this
library. A small library was dedicated to the students. Until 1993,
the library was restricted to everyone, you had to request a librarian's permission
if you wanted to visit or to use it. Since 1993, the library is opened to the
public. In 1991, the Seminary created a private corporation. That
non-profit-making organization manages the daily library's operations. A
professional librarian, Mr Bernard Auger, has been hired in 1993. His main
goal is to computerize the collections who are in handwritten card files.
The library rooms
There is 6 rooms
linked to the library activities :
- The first room is the main room and the larger. It contains, on two
floors,(ground floor and mezzanine), the monographic collections and the
religious and non-religious periodicals collections.
- The periodicals and the newspapers that we continue to buy, are available in
the reading room located near the main library room.
- The librarian office is located in the old periodical's reading room. This
room is actually used for administrative and technicals tasks, and also, when we
receive searchers. It is the main door to the library. The old files
of cataloguing cards and the partly computerized files may be used for searches
with the librarian help in this room. There is also a photocopier available
- The fourth room is mainly used for genealogic studies. It is located
just across the corridor from the main library room. This room is managed
by the genealogist, Mrs Ghislaine Letarte
center of genealogy is opened to the following schedule :
Tuesday : 13h to 21h
For more informations, about the genealogic center, and the fees charged for
research or memberships, please call to the following numbers
(450) 261-9722 or visit the internet website managed by
the Historical Center of Saint-Hyacinthe (Centre d'histoire de Saint-Hyacinthe),
see the genealogic section (Généalogie)at the following internet
address : www.chsth.com. The genealogy
room is sometimes used by the library users during their readings. This
room contains many microforms and microfilms readers and one reader-reproducer
of microfilms, and also a photocopier.
Thursday : 13h to 17h
Saturday : 11h to 16 h
- The fifth room is a warehouse inaccessible to the public. Its
main goal is to store the items older than 1870 that were computerized in
our automated catalog. This room has an atmosphere controled for
keeping the temperature and humidity at a level in order to give a longer
life to the items stored in it. This room is under the management of
the Archival Center of the Seminary of Saint-Hyacinthe. Actually, it
contains mainly archives items, canadian and provincial government items
very old, and more than 5 000 monographs dated before 1870.
Our oldest book dated from 1511.
- The sixth and last room is located at the first floor, it contains the binder
workshop whose is used by the library staff, the genealogy staff and the binder
of the College Antoine-Girouard (a private secondary school).
At the mezzanine of the main library room,
there is an architectural relic of an old Roman catholic moral's policy. It
is the wire netting and the wooden door that are still there to indicate where was
"the Inferno", as it was called by the former students of
the classical college. His official name was the room for the
Index. We are talking about the room where the
forbidden books were held because they were put to the Index
by the Congregation of the Index. This place was
kept locked and it was allowed only to the priest librarian, the library staff or
the priests that had the permission to read these forbidden books. Only the
Superior of the Seminary and the priest librarian had the key to that door.
The Congregation of the
Index was located at Rome in Italy. She had the mandate to apply the
Roman catholic moral by reading all written books, magazines or else that could be
read by any catholics. In brief, it was in charge to censure all texts or to
forbid their reading if the author or the editor decline to censorship their
contains. For reading a such forbidden books by the
Index, you should possess a written
permission from your Bishop, and you should keep it on you all the time.
Because if you were caught reading a such book put to the Index, you had to
hand over ipso facto the book to the ecclesiastic, or you were excommunicated right
What is the Index ?
The policy of putting a document to the Index
exists since a long time ago. The first time that was applyed with severity,
it was at the Council of Nicea in the year
325 . The Church comdemned the book "
Thalia " from Darius. Since
that time, the censorship policy was held until the end of the
Council of Vatican II, in 1965. Then, the Church
decided at that time that the catholics were enough mature and intelligent to
pick their own readings and avoid by themself what is immoral.
The censured books were considered to
subversives because of the ideas propagated, to much liberals (Pensées from
Pascal), to much socialist tendencies, to much erotics (Notre-Dame from Victor
Hugo) or for another reasons related to the Roman catholic moral or dogma of the
Church at this era.
Since the Pope Paul V
(Camillo Borghese 1552-1621), in 1557, the Church has established a list of these
forbidden readings. This practice perpetuated then was managed by
Congregation of the Index (1562 to 1965). The
administration of the catholic censorship was necessary because of the technological
improvements made in printing and by the accelerating number of books, pamphlets
printed. It was easier to learn how to read with the democratization of the
schools and literacy had dowgraded the Church in his monopolitization of the
knowledge. The Congregation of the Index gathered
all the loose pages proclamed about the censored books since the first condamnation
of this politics, and then it published periodically a book entitled "
Index Librorum Prohibitorum " that contained the list of
all the books prohibited. Usually, the books were classified by the date of
their comdemnation by the Index or by author,the text was printed in latin so all
Roman catholics could read it easily.
At the Seminary library, in the files of catalog
cards, the books put at the Index wore the handscript mention
LIVRES À L'INDEX inscribed in red and
undescored. Inside the cover of these books, the handscript mention
LIVRES À L'INDEX is inscribed on the first page
and on the Title page, so the reader was well warn to do not read the book, so he
will not lost his soul by doing it. Since the end of the Council of Vatican II,
in 1965, all these books were put back in the regular shelves of the library.
We have kept the wire fence and the wooden door as architectural relics for
the younger people, for telling them that those kinds of censorships was practiced
in Québec and in all the world.
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