Notre-Dame Basilica (Montreal)

Notre-Dame Basilica (Montreal)
Notre-Dame Basilica

Coordinates: 45°30′16.15″N 73°33′22.55″W / 45.5044861°N 73.5562639°W / 45.5044861; -73.5562639
Country Canada
Denomination Roman Catholic
Website Basilique Notre-Dame
Dedication Mary (mother of Jesus)
Dedicated July 15, 1829
Status Basilica
Functional status Active
Architect(s) James O'Donnell
Style Gothic Revival
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
National Historic Site of Canada
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.

The church's Gothic Revival architecture is among the most dramatic in the world; its interior is grand and colourful, its ceiling is coloured deep blue and decorated with golden stars, and the rest of the sanctuary is a polychrome of 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, 97 stops using electropneumatic action and an adjustable combination system, over 9000 individual pipes and a pedal board.[1]



View of the Basilica from from Place d'Armes

In 1657, the Roman Catholic Sulpician Order 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. [2]

The church served as the first cathedral of the Diocese of Montreal from 1821 to 1822.[3]

By 1824 the congregation had completely outgrown the church, and James O'Donnell, an Irish-American Protestant from New York, 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 Catholicism on his deathbed perhaps due to the realization that he might not be allowed to be buried in his church.[4]

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. [5] A new pipe organ was built in 1858 by Samuel Russell Warren.

pipe organ at Notre-Dame Basilica (Montreal)

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

The Basilica interior

Arson destroyed the Sacré-Cœur Chapel on December 7, 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.[6][7] The Gothic Revival style Basilica is a Montréal landmark, 1823-29. [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]

Public access

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 a $5.00 entry fee for visitors, unless they are there to attend mass. "And Then There Was Light," a sound and light show detailing the history of the church, is also offered in the evening, Tuesday through Saturday (tickets are $10 for adults [18+], $9 for seniors, and $5 for children and young adults).

The closest metro station is Place-d'Armes.


  • Jean Girard (1725-1765)
  • Guillaume Mechtler (1792-1832)
  • Jean-Chrysostome II Brauneis (1833-1844)
  • Leonard Eglauch (1845)
  • Jean-Baptiste Labelle (1849-1891)
  • Alcibiade Béique (1891-1896)
  • Joseph-Daniel Dussault (1896-1921, with the exception of eight months in 1916)
  • August Liessens (1916)
  • Benoît Poirier (1921-1954)
  • Pierre Grandmaison (1973-present)

See also


  1. ^ - Religious heritage of Quebec[dead link]
  2. ^ "biography in Biographical Dictionary of Architects in Canada 1800-1950". Retrieved November 16, 2011. 
  3. ^ "Cathédrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde: Historique" (HTML). Cathédrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde Web site. Retrieved 2009-11-17. 
  4. ^ "The Old Seminary and Notre-Dame Basilica" (HTML). Old Montreal Web site. Retrieved 2008-03-21. 
  5. ^ Pound, Richard W. (2005). 'Fitzhenry and Whiteside Book of Canadian Facts and Dates'. Fitzhenry and Whiteside. 
  6. ^ "Notre-Dame Roman Catholic Church / Basilica". Directory of Designations of National Historic Significance of Canada. Parks Canada. Retrieved August 15, 2011. 
  7. ^ Notre-Dame Roman Catholic Church / Basilica. Canadian Register of Historic Places. Retrieved August 15, 2011.
  8. ^ Gothic Revival style Basilica
  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. 
  • 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 0764541242.

External links

Coordinates: 45°30′16.15″N 73°33′22.55″W / 45.5044861°N 73.5562639°W / 45.5044861; -73.5562639

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