In Québec, like many places on earth, religion has become less important over the years. One of the consequences of this trend is an overabundance of beautiful and majestic but disused and dilapidated churches that no longer have parishioners to fill and care for them.
It is a thorny problem that eludes a simple solution. To save an old church, you need a tenant that can tolerate – or even benefit from – old-church architecture. You then need loads of money to transform the interior into the space you need. When these two things come together, wonderful things can happen. Case in point: l’École de Cirque de Québec.
In Québec City’s lower town, in the Limoilou neighborhood, the Québec Circus School has occupied St. Esprit Catholic Church since 2003. And in my opinion, it is a perfect fit. The church’s soaring ceilings and spacious side chapels play host perfectly to the paraphernalia necessary to train circus talent. Tight ropes, trapeze rigging, and the nets that accompany them traverse the nave like a spider web, while the mobile equipment of the circus arts decorate a floor that was once lined with church benches.
The lower level is outfitted as well. No longer a place for weak coffee and strong opinions, this church basement is brightly colored and padded, furnished with poles, bars, and equipment of all sorts. In an impressive feat of ecclesiastical recycling, church pews have been backed up to each other to form a corridor for learning to unicycle; the backs of the benches serve as hand rails for uninitiated.
The Québec Circus School offers professional training for those who envision a career in the in the industry. But they offer amateur classes as well for those who would like to dabble in the circus arts.