July 1, 2012 ─– The founding peoples of Montréal — the French and the English — gave the city its rich religious architectural heritage. This heritage has only been further added to by an influx of immigrants from more than 80 different cultures. Houses of worship of every religious denomination are scattered throughout the city. Of these, some are particularly noteworthy.
Every tour of Montréal’s houses of worship must begin in Old Montréal at Notre-Dame Basilica. Visitors will be immediately enraptured by its blue and gold interior. The carved wood and gilt decorations achieve perfect visual harmony. The stained-glass windows include past scenes from Montréal’s rich history. The evening sound and light show will complete your visit.
Smaller but no less appealing is the Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours chapel. We owe its existence to a nun named Marguerite Bourgeoys who was also Montréal’s first teacher. Religious items, works of art and artefacts are on display in the museum and crypt. The chapel also offers the best lookout point in Old Montréal, from which you can see the mighty St. Lawrence River.
Mary Queen of the World Cathedral is located in what was once the very heart of the city’s English Protestant area. The original building was destroyed by fire in 1852. The current structure was inspired by Saint Peter’s in Rome.
From its humble beginnings more than 100 years ago when a building was first erected on this site by Brother André (now Saint André), Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal has grown into a massive basilica that welcomes pilgrims from around the world. The Oratory sits on a picturesque site near Mount Royal and can be reached by climbing its 283 steps. If possible, schedule your visit around an organ recital or a performance by the Petits Chanteurs du Mont-Royal, a boys’ choir which received its letters patent of nobility. There are 280 nativity scenes from 107 countries to enjoy all year long.
Since 1847, St. Patrick’s Basilica first welcomed Irish Catholics fleeing the famine. In its day, the hill on which the church is built, offered a grand view of Old Montréal. Now the church has its back to the bustling downtown core that grew up around it. The church was designated a historic monument by the provincial government and a national historic site by the federal government.
Nestled within the downtown mass of skyscrapers is Christ Church Cathedral, which sits on top of an underground shopping centre and indoor pedestrian network. This particular section of the underground network required that the church’s structure be suspended on massive supports for months, while construction proceeded below ground.
Well kept secrets
In the heart of the Gay Village you will find the Saint-Pierre-Apôtre Church and the Chapel of Hope, the first chapel in the world dedicated to victims of AIDS.
One of the city’s oldest churches is Église du Gesù which hosts cultural shows and art exhibits in its venue.
The Main Building at the Montréal campus of the Université du Québec is worth a stop as this edifice now houses the exquisite clock that once rang out from the lovely Church of Saint-James in the Quartier latin.
At the Italian church of the Madonna della Defesa Church is a work honouring Mussolini — that was removed from public view during World War II. It was painted by Guido Nincheri (1885-1973), one of Canada’s best glass artists.