In Old Montreal, the Notre-Dame Basilica or Basilique Notre-Dame is a Catholic basilica and a beautiful religious-historical masterpiece. It is located at 110 Rue Notre-Dame Ouest, on the corner of Rue Saint Sulpice. It is located near the Saint-Sulpice Seminary and across from the Place d'Armes.
The neo-Gothic architecture of the church is among the most exemplary in the world. Its interior is spacious and colorful. Its ceiling is colored a somber blue dotted with golden stars, while the rest of the sanctuary has polychromes of blue, azure, red, purple, silver and gold. It is furnished with hundreds of elaborate wood carvings and numerous religious statues. Unusually for a church, the stained glass windows along the sanctuary walls do not depict biblical scenes but rather scenes from Montréal's religious history. It also has a Casavant Frères pipe organ containing four keyboards, 97 registers, over 9,000 different pipes, and a pedalboard.
The Basilica by the Place d'Armes in 1828.
In 1657 the Company of the Priests of St. Sulpice arrived in Ville-Marie (present-day Montreal); six years later, the fiefdom of the island was acquired by them, ruling until 1840. The parish they founded was dedicated to the Most Holy Name of Mary and was erected on the site under the name of Notre-Dame in 1672. It held the office of the first cathedral of the diocese of Montréal from 1821 to 1822.
By 1824, the congregation became too large for the church, forcing the construction of a new temple, designed by James O'Donnell, an Irish American Protestant architect from New York. O'Donnell was a proponent of neo-Gothic architecture and designed the church accordingly. He is the only person buried in the crypt. He, in fact, converted to Catholicism at the point of death, perhaps necessary to be buried in his church.
The sanctuary was finished in 1830 and the first bell tower in 1843. When completed, it was the largest church in North America. A new pipe organ was built in 1858 by Samuel Russell Warren.
The interior took much longer, and Victor Bourgeau, who also worked on the Monreale Cathedral, worked on it from 1872 to 1879. The stonemason John Redpath was the major participant in the construction of the basilica.
Because of the church's splendor and vast scale, an additional chapel, the Chapelle du Sacré-Coeur (Chapel of the Sacred Heart), was built behind it, with some offices and a sacristy. It was completed in 1888. In 1886 Casavant Frères initiated the construction of a new 10-meter organ, completing it in 1891. It was the first organ with adjustable combination pedals operated by electricity.
On 7 December 1978, an arson attack destroyed the Chapel of the Sacred Heart. It was rebuilt with the first two floors reproduced from old drawings and photos, with modern vaults, retablos, and a huge bronze altarpiece by Quebec sculptor Charles Daudelin.
The church of Notre-Dame was elevated to a basilica by Pope John Paul II during his visit to the city on September 11, 1984.
In 2000, the provincial state funeral of Canadian celebrity Maurice Richard, known as Rocket, was held in front of thousands of people, both inside and outside the basilica.
Also, in 2000, Justin Trudeau gave his eulogy there during the state funeral of Pierre Trudeau, his father and Canada's 15th Prime Minister. It was also the setting for the wedding of Céline Dion and René Angélil in 1994.
Visiting the Notre-Dame Basilica
The exterior of the Basilique Notre-Dame in Montreal.
The church offers musical programming of organ and choral concerts. It is a tradition among many Montrealers to attend Handel's Messiah's annual concert each December at Christmas.
Currently, an $8.00 fee is required to enter the basilica unless you attend mass. Tuesday through Saturday evenings feature, And Then There Was Light, a sound and light show detailing the church's history (tickets for adults $10; seniors $9; and children and teens).
The nearest subway metro stop is Place-d'Armes just down the hill, across the square, in front of the basilica.