Saint-Jean is one of three bells that King Louis XV of France bestowed upon the chapel of the Fortress of Louisbourg in 1735. The fortified seaport of Louisbourg had been founded in 1713 on a peninsula on Île Royale (today Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia) to defend the St. Lawrence estuary and thereby the passage to New France. The citadel, able to house a garrison of eight hundred men and up to 148 cannons, was built on a ridge and based on drawings by Marshal de Vauban, King Louis XIV’s chief military engineer.
In addition to offering an unquestionable military advantage, the busy cod-fishing port — the last harbour to remain ice-free in winter and an outpost for fishermen from Newfoundland — was vitally important in maintaining a link to France, especially as it provided a stopover en route to the French colonies in the Caribbean. Its centrality in North American geopolitics was such that its capture by the British in 1758 marked the beginning of the end of French rule in North America.