Notre-Dame Basilica (Montreal)

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Notre-Dame Basilica
French: Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal
Basílica de Notre-Dame, Montreal, Canadá, 2017-08-11, DD 19.jpg
The church building's exterior, 2012
Coordinates: 45°30′16.15″N 73°33′22.55″W / 45.5044861°N 73.5562639°W / 45.5044861; -73.5562639
Location 110, rue Notre-Dame Ouest
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
H2Y 1T2
Denomination Roman Catholic
Website Basilique Notre-Dame
Status Basilica
Dedication Mary (mother of Jesus)
Dedicated July 1, 1829
Functional status Active
Architect(s) James O'Donnell
Style Gothic
Groundbreaking 1823
Construction cost £47,446 (1832)
Length 79 metres (259 ft)
Width 46 metres (151 ft)
Height 60 metres (200 ft)
Materials Stone, which came from the Tanneries quarry in Griffintown
Archdiocese Montreal
Official name Notre-Dame Roman Catholic Church / Basilica National Historic Site of Canada
Designated 1989

Notre-Dame Basilica (French: Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal) is a basilica in the historic district of Old Montreal, in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The church is located at 110 Notre-Dame Street West, at the corner of Saint Sulpice Street. It is located next to the Saint-Sulpice Seminary and faces the Place d'Armes square.

Built in the Gothic Revival style, the church is highly decorated. The vaults are coloured deep blue and decorated with golden stars, and the rest of the sanctuary is decorated in blues, azures, reds, purples, silver, and gold. It is filled with hundreds of intricate wooden carvings and several religious statues. Unusual for a church, the stained glass windows along the walls of the sanctuary do not depict biblical scenes, but rather scenes from the religious history of Montreal. It also has a Casavant Frères pipe organ, dated 1891, which comprises four keyboards, 92 stops using electropneumatic action and an adjustable combination system, 7000 individual pipes and a pedal board.[1][2]


View of the Basilica from Place d'Armes

In 1657, the Roman Catholic Sulpician syndicate arrived in Ville-Marie, now known as Montreal; six years later the seigneury of the island was vested in them. They ruled until 1840. The parish they founded was dedicated to the Holy Name of Mary, and the parish church of Notre-Dame was built on the site in 1672.

François Baillairgé, an architect, designed the interior decoration and choir 1785-95; facade & vault decoration, 1818.[3]

The church served as the first cathedral of the Diocese of Montreal from 1821 to 1822.[4]

By 1824 the congregation had completely outgrown the church, and James O'Donnell, an Irish-American Anglican from New York City, was commissioned to design the new building. O'Donnell was a proponent of the Gothic Revival architectural movement, and designed the church as such. He is the only person buried in the church's crypt. O'Donnell converted to Roman Catholicism on his deathbed perhaps due to the realization that he might not be allowed to be buried in his church.[5]

The main construction work took place between 1824 and 1829. The cornerstone was laid at Place d'Armes on September 1, 1824. The sanctuary was finished in 1830, and the first tower in 1841, the second in 1843. On its completion, the church was the largest in North America. It remained the largest in North America for over fifty years.[6] A new pipe organ was built in 1858 by Samuel Russell Warren.

Inside of Notre-Dame Basilica (Montreal)
Inside of Notre-Dame Basilica (Montreal).
Casavant Frères pipe organ, dated 1891 at Notre-Dame Basilica

The interior took much longer, and Victor Bourgeau, who also worked on Montreal's Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral, worked on it from 1872 to 1879. Stonemason John Redpath was a major participant in the construction of the Basilica.

Because of the splendour and grand scale of the church, a more intimate chapel, Chapelle du Sacré-Cœur (Chapel of the Sacred Heart), was built behind it, along with some offices and a sacristy. It was completed in 1888. In 1886 Casavant Frères began building a new 32-foot pipe organ at the church, completing it in 1891. It was notably the first organ with adjustable-combination pedals to be operated by electricity.

Recent events[edit]

Arson destroyed the Sacré-Cœur Chapel on December 8, 1978. It was rebuilt with the first two levels being reproduced from old drawings and photographs, with modern vaulting and reredos and an immense bronze altarpiece by Quebec sculptor Charles Daudelin.

Notre-Dame Church was raised to the status of basilica by Pope John Paul II during a visit to the city on April 21, 1982. The Notre-Dame Roman Catholic Church was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1989.[7][8]

On May 31, 2000, the provincial state funeral for former Montreal Canadiens superstar Maurice "Rocket" Richard was held in front of thousands, both inside and outside the Basilica.

On October 3, 2000, Justin Trudeau gave his eulogy just steps from the High Altar during the state funeral of Pierre Trudeau, his father and Canada's 15th prime minister.[9]

It was also the setting of Celine Dion's December 17, 1994, wedding to René Angélil[10] and hosted the memorial service for Angelil on January 22, 2016.[11]

Public access[edit]

Detail of the main altar.

The basilica offers musical programming of choral and organ performances. It is a tradition among many Montrealers to attend the annual performance of Handel's Messiah every December at Christmas.

The basilica now charges visitors CAD $6.00 for admission unless they are there to attend mass. "Aura" a sound and light show created by Moment Factory and unveiling the richness of Notre-Dame Basilica’s heritage is offered in the evenings, Tuesday through Saturday at 6pm and 8pm and Sundays at 7pm and 9pm. Tickets are $24.50 for adults, $22.20 for seniors, $18.75 for students [17-22] and $14.80 for children and young adults. The approximate duration of the show is 45 minutes divided into two parts: a thematic route followed by a multimedia experience.

The closest Metro station is Place-d'Armes, on the Orange Line.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ - Religious heritage of Quebec Archived February 9, 2004, at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ The Basilica in pictures
  3. ^ "biography in Biographical Dictionary of Architects in Canada 1800-1950". Retrieved November 16, 2011.
  4. ^ "Cathédrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde: Historique". Cathédrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde Web site. Archived from the original on 2016-01-25. Retrieved 2009-11-17.
  5. ^ "The Old Seminary and Notre-Dame Basilica". Old Montreal Web site. Retrieved 2008-03-21.
  6. ^ Pound, Richard W. (2005). 'Fitzhenry and Whiteside Book of Canadian Facts and Dates'. Fitzhenry and Whiteside.
  7. ^ "Notre-Dame Roman Catholic Church / Basilica". Directory of Designations of National Historic Significance of Canada. Parks Canada. Retrieved August 15, 2011.
  8. ^ Notre-Dame Roman Catholic Church / Basilica. Canadian Register of Historic Places. Retrieved August 15, 2011.
  9. ^ "Justin Trudeau's eulogy". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 2000-10-03. Retrieved 2008-08-28.
  10. ^ "Celine Dion and Rene Angelil's Wedding". Lovetripper. Retrieved 2008-08-28.
  11. ^ René Angélil remembered at national funeral in Montreal
  • Rémillard, François (1992). Old Montreal - A Walking Tour, Ministère des Affaires culturelles du Québec.
  • Livesey, Herbert Bailey (2003). Frommer's 2004 Montreal & Quebec City, Frommer's, 104. ISBN 0-7645-4124-2.

External links[edit]