Christ Church Cathedral (Montreal)

Christ Church Cathedral is an Anglican Gothic Revival cathedral in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, the seat of the Anglican Diocese of Montreal. It is located at 635 Saint Catherine Street West, between Avenue Union and Boulevard Robert-Bourassa. It is situated on top of the Promenades Cathédrale underground shopping mall, and south of Tour KPMG. It was classified as historical monument by the government of Quebec on May 12, 1988. In 1999, it was designated a National Historic Site of Canada.[1][2]

Christ Church Cathedral
Christ Church Cathedral, with the Tour KPMG office tower in the background.
Christ Church Cathedral
Location635, rue Sainte-Catherine Ouest
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Founded1789 (1789)
Architectural typeNeo-Gothic
Length62 metres (203 ft)
Width33 metres (108 ft)
Nave width34 metres (112 ft)
Height70 metres (230 ft)
Number of spires1
Spire height38 metres (125 ft)
Bishop(s)Mary Irwin-Gibson
DeanBertrand Olivier
Assistant priest(s)Jean-Daniel Ó Donnċaḋa, Deborah Meister
Honorary priest(s)Jennifer Bourque
Deacon(s)Peter Huish
Director of musicJonathan White
Official nameChrist Church Cathedral National Historic Site of Canada
Official nameMonument historique classé
Organ scholarSarah Sabol


An Anglican ministry first began in Montreal in 1760. Services were held in chapels of the Roman Catholic Church for the first half-century. In 1789, the Anglican congregation of Montreal received a former Jesuit church, renaming it as Christ Church. The building was used by the congregation until 1803, when it was destroyed in a fire.[3] The clergyman was appointed by Dorchester as garrison chaplain of Montreal in 1766, with inaugural service in Christ Church was pronounced by him on 20 December 1789. The first Christ Church was in fact the repaired and re-dedicated Jesuit church.[4] So it was the second church building that was constructed in 1814.

In 1850, the second Christ Church was designated as the cathedral for the new Anglican Diocese of Montreal upon its separation from the Anglican Diocese of Quebec. The cathedral was destroyed by fire in 1856.[5]

The present cathedral, a Neo-gothic structure, was designed by architect Frank Wills (1822–1856), who also designed Christ Church Cathedral in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Before construction began, Willis died, and Montreal architect, Thomas Seaton Scott (1826–1895) was commissioned to carry out his design.[6] The structure was completed in 1859 and consecrated in 1867.[6]

Andrew Taylor oversaw alterations and other restoration of the Cathedral from 1890 to 1891 and installed a memorial window for Mrs. A.C. Hooper in 1902-03.[7]

Modeled after the 14th century Gothic-style churches of the English countryside, the cathedral features a square crossing tower.[8]

Unfortunately, the design, though acclaimed for its architecture, suffered from important engineering flaws. The soft ground could not support the heavy central stone tower and steeple, which began to subside and lean. By 1920, the tower leaned 1.2 m (3.9 ft) to the south. This defect formed the basis of an important lawsuit (Wardle v. Bethune) often cited as precedent relating to Article 1688 of Quebec's Civil Code.

George Allan Ross designed alterations in 1923 and reconstructed the tower from 1939 to 1940.[9] In 1927, the stone steeple, weighing 1,600,000 kg (3,500,000 lb) was removed. New foundations were poured in 1939, and in 1940, an anonymous donation permitted the construction of a much lighter steeple made of aluminum, molded to simulate the former stone spire. It is 38 m (125 ft) high, attaining a height of 70 m (230 ft) from the ground.[6]

Recent additions to the church include a choir gallery, built in 1980, and the church's third organ, installed in 1981. Notable musicians to have served as the church's organist include Alfred Whitehead (1922–1947) and S. Drummond Wolff (1952–1956).

The organ is opus 77 of Karl Wilhelm, Inc. of Mont-Saint-Hilaire, Quebec. It is a mechanical key and stop instrument with four-manuals, 42 stops and 63 ranks. In 1992, the pedal division was expanded with a 32' Bombarde.

The organ replaced the earlier instrument that served the congregation from 1859. The earlier instrument was constructed by William Hill and Son in London to duplicate an organ given to the congregation by King George III and destroyed in the fire of 1856. The Hill instrument was remodeled and enlarged several on at least five occasions during the tenure of its service. In 1979, the congregation commissioned the mechanical organ and the earlier instrument was sold for parts.[10]

Promenades Cathédrale

In the 1980s, a vast real estate project was undertaken below the cathedral. The project consisted of a 34-floor skyscraper, Tour KPMG built north of the Cathedral, underground parking, and two levels of retail stores situated beneath the cathedral. For a period in 1987, the Cathedral was supported on stilts while footings for the underground mall, Promenades Cathédrale, were excavated. This project allowed for the linkage of the eastern and western branches of Montreal's underground city, connecting Eaton's (now Les Ailes de la Mode) and The Bay.

Canadian Grenadier Guards

Christ Church Cathedral is the regimental church of the Canadian Grenadier Guards. The guards maintain their traditional ties with the church, as well as to McGill University, by marching from the Arts Building on campus, to the cathedral, annually in commemoration of Remembrance Day. The cathedral also houses the guards' retired regimental colours.

L'Oasis musicale

Every Saturday at 4.30 pm throughout the year and every Wednesday at 6.30 pm during the summer months the cathedral hosts a series of weekly concerts, "L'Oasis musicale," which supports and promotes local musicians, many of whom are studying at music colleges in Montreal and starting out on their career. The concerts are open to all. The concerts feature a range of musicians, from solo instrumentalists and singers to ensembles, small orchestras, and choirs. The repertoire is mainly classical music, but occasionally, popular, folk, religious, or traditional music is played.

See also


  1. "Christ Church Cathedral". Directory of Designations of National Historic Significance of Canada. Parks Canada. Retrieved 29 July 2011.
  2. Christ Church Cathedral. Canadian Register of Historic Places. Retrieved July 29, 2011.
  3. "History". Christ Church Cathedral. 2019. Retrieved 23 September 2019.
  4. Lambert, James H. (1979). "CHABRAND DELISLE, DAVID". Dictionary of Canadian Biography. 4.
  5. "Christ Church buildings". Our History. Christ Church Cathedral (Montreal). 2009-02-07. Archived from the original on 6 July 2011. Retrieved 9 November 2010.
  6. "FAQs and Urban Myths". Our History. Christ Church Cathedral. 2008-09-08. Archived from the original on 16 November 2010. Retrieved 9 November 2010.
  7. "Sir Andrew Thomas Taylor". Biographic Dictionary of Architects in Canada 1800-1950. Archived from the original on 2015-02-03. Retrieved 2013-03-19.
  8. "Guided tour". Our History. Christ Church Cathedral. 2009-04-03. Archived from the original on 6 July 2011. Retrieved 9 November 2010.
  9. "George Allen Roaa". Biographic Dictionary of Architects in Canada 1800-1950. Archived from the original on 2012-04-25. Retrieved 2013-03-19.
  10. "Christ Church Anglican Cathedral". Retrieved 2013-03-19.

Further reading

  • (in French) Commission des biens culturels, Les chemins de la mémoire, Monuments et sites historiques du Québec, Vol. II, Les Publications du Québec, Québec, 1991, pp. 81–83.
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