La terra de Hochelaga nella Nova Francia

Dublin Core


La terra de Hochelaga nella Nova Francia


Montréal (Québec)


Ramusio’s La terra de Hochelaga nella Nova Francia depicts the Iroquois village of Hochelaga supposedly discovered by Jaques Cartier on his second journey to what is now Quebec. It is the first cartographic source to use the name “Mont Real” (Montreal). Ramusio drew the village based on descriptions from Cartier’s writings, however, many historians are sceptical of Cartier’s claims. No concrete archeological evidence has ever been found of Hochelaga, and the precise geometry of the village conflicts with historical evidence from other Amerindian settlements of the time.
This is the third and final edition of the map. There is very apparent wood worm damage at the top left corner, (blank oblong areas), which is not surprising considering that the wood block plates had been stored for forty years at the time of the final printing. This edition of the map was reprinted from a plate created in 1565 rather than the initial plate carved in 1556. Subtle changes such as the opaqueness of the smoke at the bottom centre of the map, and the altered shape of certain trees provide evidence that a new plate had been created. From the second edition to the third, the only intentional alterations are a renumbering of the pages from 446/447 to 380.2/380.3.


Ramusio, Giovanni Battista, 1485-1557


Unknown - Venice, Italy




Hailey Slaviero


Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License


Full-sized digital item can be found in McMaster's Digital Archive at:


Map ; 27 x 36 cm, on sheet 32 x 42 cm.








North America--Canada--Québec--Montréal

Still Image Item Type Metadata

Original Format

Cartographic Map

Physical Dimensions

27 x 36 cm, on sheet 32 x 42 cm

Contributor's Research

During Jaques Cartier’s second expedition of what is now Quebec in 1535, he claims to have encountered a Iroquois village some 8km inland from his ship’s docking point. He described a village of approximately 50 houses, arranged in a circular pattern around a central open space. Ramusio’s map labelled this area a “Piazza”, an element common to European Renaissance architecture, though not representative of other Iroquoian villages at the time. The symmetrical layout of the houses and the descriptions of the houses provided by Cartier also seems reflect European bias. Cartier described the houses as being 3.5-4.5 meters in width and 15 meters in length with a single fireplace in the central room of the home. This is in stark contrast to the actual Iroquoian longhouses established throughout the 12th to 18th centuries, which were consistently 8meters wide and up to 94 meters in length. The longhouses were also notable for having multiple hearths down the length of the central corridor. Single-family homes, such as those described by Cartier did not appear until the 18th century and were likely a result of European influence.
Perhaps, as a commercial sailor, Cartier altered ethnographic details so that they would be more in line with the normative European culture of his financial sponsors. It might have been easier to write about the village in a way that European audiences would identify. If one is inclined toward scepticism however, one might question whether Cartier encountered a native settlement at all on this particular voyage, or if he merely crafted a tale to bring back with him to Europe so that his journey would seem fruitful. This might explain why Cartier’s description of the village is much more in line with urban planning of the European Renaissance, than evidence from all other Iroquois settlements.
Another peculiarity that suggests Hochelaga was merely a myth is that it never again appeared after 1535. When Cartier made his third expedition in 1541, he referred to a village named Tutonaguy which was located in a similar region to where Cartier had placed Hochelaga, but was not described with the same unique spatial layout. When Samuel de Champlain explored the region in 1603, he looked for Cartier’s Hochelaga yet noted that the village had mysteriously vanished without any trace. Surely all archeological evidence of such a settlement would not disappear within 60 years, there would at least be some traces of the village left.
After 1603, Hochelaga remained largely forgotten until 1860, when native remains were discovered by construction workers at a building site in Montreal (south of Sherbrooke St. between Metcalfe and Mansfield Sts.). Sir John William Dawson, Canada’s most prolific scientist and principal of McGill University at the time, was brought in to investigate the discovery. Dawson, who found various fire pits, tools, cooking pots, clay pipes and skeletons at the site, concluded that it must be the lost village Hochelaga. Upon reflection, Dawson’s claim was quite problematic; the site was significantly smaller than the village Cartier had described. Additionally, how could this site be Hochelaga when in 1603 Samuel de Chaplain had been unable to find a single trace of the village. Would it not seem more likely that the site found in 1860 was the remains of a later Iroquois settlement? Dawson ignored concerns such as these, and since 1860 the existence of Hochelaga has largely been accepted. Historians are not focused on proving or disproving Hochelaga to be a myth, but theorizing on where it would have been located.
In the 1920s, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada (HSMBC) decided that McGill University’s campus north of Sherbrooke was the “precise” location of Hochelaga. The HSMBC received permission to use the university’s land and planned to unveil the historic site in 1922. However, the unveiling and laying of a commemorative stone was delayed until 1925 due to controversy over the location of Hochelaga. Aristide Beaugrand-Champagne of the
Société historique de Montréal (SHM), claimed that he had “conclusive proof” establishing the “true” location of Hochelaga. He theorized that Cartier that followed the Rivière des Prairies
(rather than the Saint Lawrence River as was commonly believed), and as such would have arrived at Sault-au-Récollet, on northern shore of the island of Montreal, instead of Lachine Rapids. Cartier’s writings would thus place Hochelaga on the northern side of Mount Royal, in the city of Outremont. Beaugrand-Champagne insisted the remains of Hochelaga were located near the intersection of Pagneulo and Maplewood Streets.
Beaugrand-Champagne’s theory was not just a matter of geographic concern but also one of cultural signifcance. Dawson’s hypothesis placed Hochelaga within a primarily anglophone neighbourhood, while Beaugrand-Champagne placed Hochelaga within the francophone neighbourhood known as “French Westmount”. French Westmount was an upper-middle class suburb where over 40% of the population was French-speaking. Placing Hochelaga within this social geography was a way to reclaim the francophone narrative of French discovery and historical claims to the northeastern region of Mount Royal. The HSMBC spent three years considering this theory not out of concern for francophone cultural narratives but the Board’s own standards of accuracy. In the end they decided to proceed with the Dawson site, but change the plaque’s definitive language to note that Hochelaga had been “near” the site.
In 2015, concerns were raised by historians when developer Ivanhoe Cambridge began construction on an office tower near the Dawson site. Construction was halted and a survey was conducted by Archeotec, however due to road and infrastructure construction in the 19th and 20th centuries, the site did not have any remaining surface soils that might have contained archeological elements.
It is interesting that fascination with Hochelaga persists to this day. It appears as though the distinct lack of evidence supporting the existence of the village, fuels the mystery and the legend of Hochelaga rather than discouraging further investigation. The village is the Canadian equivalent of El Dorado or Atlantis and will likely continue to be an integral part of Canada’s history and mythos."


Ramusio, Giovanni Battista, 1485-1557, “La terra de Hochelaga nella Nova Francia,” Omeka Testbed, accessed July 21, 2018,