April 20, 2012 – Perched on the north-west corner of Mount Royal, Saint Joseph’s Oratory is one of the world’s most visited religious sites. Each year, close to two million visitors make the pilgrimage to the 155-metre basilica, which overlooks the city. And with the canonisation in Rome of the basilica’s founder, Brother André, more and more people make the trip to see this Montréal sanctuary.
From modest beginnings to today: 106 years of history
Initiated by Brother André and friends, construction of the original wood chapel began in 1904. By the time the chapel was completed, however, it was no longer big enough to take in the growing number of faithful who were coming to see Brother André. After several efforts to expand the old chapel, plans for the present-day basilica were developed and construction of the current structure commenced in 1924. It wasn’t until 1967—a full 30 years after the death of Brother André—that construction was completed.
A holy site with many attractions
Nestled right next to the splendid basilica that sits atop the mountain, the crypt and the original chapel where Brother André lived remain part of the pilgrimage site. An ideal location for prayer and meditation, the magnificent gardens adjoining the basilica include a path featuring 17 beautiful sculptures that make up the Stations of the Cross. In addition to partaking in the masses and recitals that are held in the basilica all year round, visitors can also take in numerous exhibitions, such as the one devoted to some 300 nativity scenes from around the world.
Humble man, lasting legacy
Having gained recognition for his healing powers and for his role in the construction of the world’s largest religious site dedicated to Saint Joseph, Saint Brother André passed away on January 6, 1937, at the age of 91. His funeral was attended by more than one million faithful from across the world who came to pay their respects. His body now rests in a simple tomb inside the Oratory. The canonisation of Brother André was held in Rome on October 17, 2010. The exhibition, Brother André's Faith Journey, recounts the life of the first Canadian man to be declared a saint.