Our next stop in our exploration of Old Montreal is Notre-Dame Basilica or otherwise known as Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal in French. It is one of the major tourist attractions in Montreal. Although it is a small basilica (I think is referred to as a minor basilica) compared to others Cousin Mel and I have visited (it’s pretty hard to beat St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome), it remains one of my favourite churches. Maybe it’s because of the memories it holds for me – I remember visiting it with my family and friends on many occasions. I remember when they never charged for admission. This particular church is unique in that the stained glass which were imported from Limoges, France depict the history of Montreal. It is a beautiful church, especially inside. It is intricately decorated with many carvings. The altar alone is spectacular. You can find the basilica at 110 Notre-Dame Street West facing Place d’Armes. If you plan to do the tour on your own, make sure you grab one of the pamphlets provided. I’ll pass on some of the info from that pamphlet here.
The basilica was constructed between 1824 and 1829 in the Gothic Revival style by James O’Donnell. The two towers were not completed until 1843. Perseverance is the name of the western tower which holds the great bell weighing 10,900 kg. Temperance is the name of eastern tower which holds a carillon with ten bells. I think Perseverance is the one on the right and Temperance the one on the left from the photo below.
I could never have taken photos with my camera phone that could have done this place justice. Besides, the first thing you’ll notice when you enter is how dark it is. You’ll need a steady hand or a tripod. Although I would like to point out that I did see sign that said no photos allowed but no one stopped those of us who were taking photos. Make sure you visit the main site to see some great photos of the details of the interior of the basilica here – I would like to quote from the site because it’s so true “With its dazzling combination of blue and gold, the Basilica is a place like no other in Montreal – once seen, never forgotten.”
Henri Bouriché was commissioned to create the altarpiece sculptures. He was inspired by the theme of the Eucharist. Christ’s sacrifice is featured in the middle, surrounded by – Melchisedech offering bread and wine (bottom left); Moses places an urn in the Ark of the Covenant (top left); Abraham prepares to sacrifice Isacc (bottom right); Aaron sacrifices a lamb (top right); and Mary crowned by Jesus (above). The six statues are of the saints – Peter, Paul, Matthew, Luke, Mark and John.
The next three of photos are from the Notre-Dame Basilica site just to give you an idea of the details of the interior.
The pulpit was constructed between 1883 and 1885; originally designed by Henri Bouriché and modified by Victor Bourgeau and the sculptures created by Louis-Philippe Hébert.
The Casavant Frères pipe organ dates back to 1891. The company that made it is still around today. It has been modified over the years and now has four keyboards, 99 stops and about 7,000 pipes. It was a special treat for us to have heard a choir practicing while we visited. After their practice, they were given a short history on the basilica which we listened to for a few minutes.
Here’s a nicer photo of the organs from the Notre-Dame Basilica site.
We were in a bit of a rush when we went and seem to have missed the Chapel of Notre-Dame du Sacré-Coeur. Don’t make the same mistake we did. Check that pamphlet for its location.
Some general info on the the church:
- Masses: Monday through Friday 7:30 am and 12:15 pm; Saturday 5:00 pm; Sunday 8:00 am, 9:30 am, 11:00 am and 5:00 pm. Weekend masses are accompanied by the origan and the choir is present at the 11:00 am mass on Sunday. If you plan to attend mass, then entrance to the church is free of charge.
- Address: 110 Notre-Dame Street West, Montreal, QC H2Y 1T1
- Telephone: 514 842-2925 or 1 866 842-2925
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Web: http://www.notredamebasilica.ca
The weather wasn’t great for photos on our first day there and when the sun finally came out the next day, it was all back-lighting at the time we were at Place d’Armes. I didn’t have the luxury to wait for the lighting conditions to improve so this photo is going to have to be good enough until I go back for another visit.
Here’s an interesting photo from 1909 courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. The building with the Ionic columns is the head office of the Bank of Montreal (circa 1859).
Here’s another photo (below) courtesy of Wikimedia Commons which shows the other buildings surrounding Place d’Armes that include the New York Life Building, also known as the Quebec Bank Building (as the name carved on the entrance), constructed in 1887-1889. It is the one with the clock. The Aldred Building stands beside it to the right of the photo. It is the one in the Art Deco style, completed in 1931. It reminds me of the Empire State Building in New York City.
Not quite finished with Old Montreal… stay tuned for the next installment on Bonsecours and the Old Port.