The first sign of Christianity was the cross planted in 1643 atop Mount Royal. While still the highest monument in Montréal, it’s far from being the only symbol in a city of 80 ethnic groups.
Our legacy of religious art, architecture and music makes us one of the most enriched cities on the continent. While the influence of the Roman Catholic Church dominates, significant contributions were also made by the Protestants. Downtown Montréal is dotted with stunning churches, such as the Neo-gothic Anglican Christ Church Cathedral and the newly restored St. James United Church.
The centrepiece of Old Montréal is the Gothic Revival Notre-Dame Basilica: fabulously ornate, with gold stars painted on a sky-blue ceiling, a high altar and intricately carved wood. Closer to the heavens sits St. Joseph’s Oratory on the slopes of Mount Royal, a draw for pilgrims from afar. Beckoning all is a 56-bell carillon on the grounds. The church’s vast interior has a magnificent 5,811-pipe organ that easily meets the acoustic demands of the vast 60 m high space.
With Québec being the organ-building capital of North America, Montréal is blessed with excellent and well-maintained specimens all over the city. The sounds of Bach or Widor can often be heard floating out of one of Montréal’s thousand-and-one churches.
At the top of the mountain are the Notre-Dame-des-Neiges and Mount Royal cemeteries. With their rolling hills, blossoming trees and spectacular views, these historic sites are enchanting places to walk in. Many of the great names of Québec and Canada are buried here.
But the city that lies at its feet is very much alive with the original Native spirituality as well as Eastern Orthodox, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Wicca and more. Every group observes its holidays with lively festivals and feasts, and visits to their places of worship can often be arranged.