The Grey Nuns reading room reopens for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic

The Grey Nun’s reading room early friday morning. Kaitlynn Rodney/ The Concordian

The working space located in an old chapel is one of Concordia’s gems 

A hidden gem, the working space is barely occupied and a great silence reigns the grounds. Upon entrance, every little movement is echoed inside the massive church. The great height of the ceilings provide a sense of liberty and space to let one’s ideas wander. One can study at the working spaces at either corner of the church, or even on the altar. 

The Grey Nuns reading room reopened its doors to students after being closed throughout the pandemic. Located at 1190 Guy St., this working space provides a quiet hub away from the chaos of the city. The reading room is the former chapel of the mother house of the order of the Sisters of Charity of Montreal, also known as the “Grey Nuns.” 

Lorrie Edmonds, a monitor at the reading room, says she enjoys working in that space for its peaceful and awe-inspiring aspect but also for its rich history.

“The Grey Nuns reading room is also a Heritage Canada designated space,” said Edmonds. “So I also see our monitor duties as being stewards of this amazing space that’s been preserved since the 1800s. There is a lot of history to this space.” 

The edifice was built by the Grey Nuns order, a Catholic monastic order, in 1871 and acquired by Concordia in 2007 to turn it into a student residence at a time where the demand for apartments and inflation rose and students needed a living space downtown. When the last nuns left, the question of what to do with the chapel arose.

“The chapel was available and deconsecrated,” explained Edmonds. “Many businesses submitted proposals about what they would do with the chapel space […] Heritage Canada approved Concordia’s proposal to maintain the peace of the chapel itself to create a reading room. It was minimally invasive to the structure itself.” 

Beyond its grandeur, the deconsecrated appropriation of the chapel is both attractive and revolutionary. It allows us to conceive places of worship as historical artifacts, where new ways of life can take place, adapted to our times.

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