This article was published on June 5th, 2011
Montreal, Quebec is rich in history. The architecture rich city is home to dozens of cathedrals of various shapes, sizes and religions. The most popular of them all is the Notre Dame Basilica.
The original Notre-Dame in Montreal was founded in 1642 by Maisonneuve. Until 1959, the faithful gathered in the modest wooden chapel. It was operated by the Jesuits until the Sulpicians’ arrival in Ville-Marie (Montreal), in 1957, when they took over the parish.
The construction of the stone church took place from 1672 to 1683. By the year 1800 many parishioners had to listen to the mass from the parvis because there was not enough room inside the church.
The basilica’s architect was James O’Donnell, an Irish protestant living in New York. He moved to Montreal to oversee his work, converted to Catholicism and died in 1830, just a few months after the church’s inauguration.
Construction of the towers started in 1841 and was completed in 1843. The great bell, located in the western tower, Perseverance, weights 10,900kg. The eastern tower, Temperance, is home to a carillon with ten bells.
The interior of Notre Dame was inspired by the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris. Mr. Victor Bourgeau, the diocese’s most prolific architect, was hired to design the existing décor. He submitted his plans in 1869, but work did not begin until 1874 and was completed by 1880.
Today, visitors are welcome to visit and take part in the regular scheduled services. There is a minimum five dollar donation to enter during regular business hours. These admission fees help finance the ongoing restoration and conversation of the building.
There are six major features for visitors to see:
- The sanctuary and alter: Melchisedech offers bread and wine; Moses places an urn full of manna in the Arch of the Covenant; Abraham prepares to sacrifice his son Isaac; Aaron sacrifices a lamb; Mary is crowned by her son; the six polychrome statues represent Saint Peter and Saint Paul and the four evangelists.
- The Pulpit: Built from 1883 – 1885; sculptures by Louis-Philippe Hebert
- The organ: Originally built in 1891 by the Casavant brothers; it has 4 keyboards, 99 stops and approximately 7,000 pipes.
- Chapel of Notre-Dame du Sacre-Coeur: Built from 1888 to 1891; destroyed by fire in 1978 and was rebuilt from 1979 to 1982.
- Chapel of the Blesses Sacrament: The faithful may pray in peace; behind the chapel is the baptistery.
- Stained glass windows: Ordered in 1929, the ground floor windows depict scenes of Montreal’s social and religious history.
For more information, visit the Notre-Dame Basilica website.