The year 1955 brought many hardships to the city of Nicolet. On March 21, a fire–the largest in the city’s history–destroyed 35 houses. A few months later, on November 12, an impressive landslide engulfed almost the entire episcopal palace, the Académie des Écoles Chrétiennes (Nicolet’s first seminary), three houses and a garage. Three people also perished. The cathedral, located a few feet from the huge crater, was in danger of collapsing and had to be demolished in the following weeks. The Hôtel-Dieu, founded by the Grey Nuns, was also located about twenty feet from the forty foot high crater. For safety reasons, the hundreds of people (nuns, elderly, orphans and sick persons) who occupied it were relocated to different establishments in the region. Just a few weeks after the tragedy, on the night of December 31, 1955, a fire destroyed the building. Fortunately, no one died in the fire, as the building was empty that night since the evacuation following the great landslide of November 12. A large part of the archives, furniture and objects of the community were nevertheless destroyed.
Here is what was noted in the Chronicles following the November 12 landslide:
“Since we are so near the vast crater, let us review some unforgettable scenes of the disaster. Through the gaping opening of the bishop’s house, we see overturned furniture, a few frames on the wall, including a crucifix swaying in the winter breeze, shattered woodwork; a few stations of the Way of the Cross; the floors are leaning at an angle of at least 15 degrees, wanting at any moment to fall into the wide chasm of clay. Below, on a mound of ruins, the dome of the episcopal palace appears… The spectacle is striking… At some two hundred feet towards the river, debris indicates where the Academy collapsed. This old and historic house–the first seminary of Nicolet–has become the tomb of two victims of the disaster: the Rev. Brother Herménégilde, director of the institution, who, warned of the danger, did not have time to leave the house, and of the cook, Mrs. Alphonse Boisvert, also buried in the debris. The body of the latter was found a few hours later while the former is still being sought.”
“The Rev. Brother Gervais escaped certain death: he was arranging the chairs in the establishment [the Academy] for a session of animated views that was to take place in the afternoon for all the students. He only had time to escape through the back door with the two boys who were helping him. The ground was sliding under their feet. We refuse to think about the fact that if this unheard of disaster had occurred a few hours later, nearly 300 children would have been swallowed up.”