May 12, 2012 ─ Religion: a focal point in Montréal’s history
In 1535 the Iroquoian village of Hochelaga was visited by French explorer Jacques Cartier, and approximately 100 years later Sieur de Maisonneuve founded the settlement of Ville-Marie, Montréal’s former name. 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 colonized during centuries by the French and the British. Montreal’s legacy of religious art, architecture and music makes it one of the most enriched cities on the continent.
Catholic and Protestant heritage
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. As the site of numerous historical events since the 19th century, Notre-Dame Basilica has long been a focal point in Montréal’s history.
For the pilgrims
Closer to the heavens sits St. Joseph’s Oratory on the slopes of Mount Royal, a draw for pilgrims from afar. The sheer size of it dome contrasts sharply with its frail founder, Brother André, the humble doorkeeper who had initiated its construction in 1904. 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.
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. Not to mention, Notre-Dames-des-Neiges Cemetery is the largest cemetery in Canada and the third-largest in North America.