Notre-Dame Basilica (Montreal)

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.

Notre-Dame Basilica
French: Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal
The church building's exterior, 2012
Notre-Dame Basilica
Location110, rue Notre-Dame Ouest
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
H2Y 1T2
DenominationRoman Catholic
WebsiteBasilique Notre-Dame
StatusMinor basilica
DedicatedJuly 1, 1829
Functional statusActive
Architect(s)James O'Donnell
StyleGothic Revival, English Gothic
Construction cost£47,446 (1832)
Length79 metres (259 ft)
Width46 metres (151 ft)
Height60 metres (200 ft)
MaterialsStone, which came from the Tanneries quarry in Griffintown
Official nameNotre-Dame Roman Catholic Church / Basilica National Historic Site of Canada

The interior of the church is amongst the most dramatic in the world and regarded as a masterpiece of Gothic Revival architecture.[1] 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.[2][3]

Approximately 11 million people visit Notre-Dame Basilica every year, making it one of the most visited monuments in North America.[4]


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.[5] The church served as the first cathedral of the Diocese of Montreal from 1821 to 1822.[6]

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, with a goal of accommodating a congregation of up to 10,000.[7] O'Donnell was a proponent of the Gothic Revival architectural movement, and designed the church as such. He intended for a terrace to be built on the exterior of the church, but this was never completed due to a lack of funding.[8] He is the only person buried in the church's crypt. O'Donnell converted to Roman Catholicism on his deathbed and was thus buried in the crypt.[9]

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. O'Donnell designed the towers with to be traditionally Gothic, and intended for them to be seen from any point in the city.[8] The first tower, also referred to as the West Tower or La Persévérance, hosts the bell named Jean-Baptiste, which came from England. The second tower, also referred to as the East Tower or La Tempérance, hosts ten bells which are also from England.[10] Following O'Donnell's death, John Ostell, an English-born architect, finished the towers according to O'Donnell's original plans.[11] On its completion, the church was the largest in North America. It remained the largest in North America for over fifty years.[12] A new pipe organ was built in 1858 by Samuel Russell Warren. The facade of the church was completed in 1865, and three statues were included; Saint-Joseph, the Virgin Mary, and Saint Jean-Baptiste. These statues were built by Henri Bouriché, a French sculptor.[13]

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. The sanctuary originally hosted a large canopy, but because it caused a lighting effect that would blind the congregation, so the interior designs were reworked by Bourgeau and Victor Rousselot, the current priest. They were inspired by the Saint-Chappelle in Paris, and decided on gold leaf motifs paired with brightly painted columns.[14]

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.

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 on April 21, 1982. The Notre-Dame Roman Catholic Church was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1989.[15][16]

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.[17]

It was also the setting of Celine Dion's December 17, 1994, wedding to René Angélil[18] and hosted the memorial service for Angelil on January 22, 2016.[19]

In the summer of 2014, a French collector named Pierre-Jean Chalencon displayed a variety of artifacts that belonged to Napoleon Bonaparte. These items included clothing, weapons, and furniture, and were on display in the crypt on the basilica.[20]

In April of 2019, following the fires in Paris's Notre-Dame cathedral, Montreal's Notre-Dame announced that they would be accepting donations that would be provided to aid in the Paris cathedral's reconstruction.[21]

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 visitors CAD $8.00 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.

More than 11 million people visit Notre-Dame every year, one million less than Notre-Dame de Paris.[22]

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


See also


  2. - Religious heritage of Quebec Archived February 9, 2004, at the Wayback Machine
  3. The Basilica in pictures
  5. "biography in Biographical Dictionary of Architects in Canada 1800-1950". Retrieved November 16, 2011.
  6. "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.
  7. "Notre-Dame Basilica of Montréal | The Canadian Encyclopedia". Retrieved 2019-12-03.
  8. Toker, Franklin (1991). The Church of Notre-Dame in Montreal: an architectural history. McGill-Queen's University Press. pp. 37–39. ISBN 978-0-7735-0848-4.
  9. "The Old Seminary and Notre-Dame Basilica". Old Montreal Web site. Retrieved 2008-03-21.
  10. "The creation of the Basilica - La Basilique Notre-Dame". Retrieved 2019-12-03.
  11. " -". Retrieved 2019-12-03.
  12. Pound, Richard W. (2005). Fitzhenry and Whiteside Book of Canadian Facts and Dates. Fitzhenry and Whiteside.
  13. " -". Retrieved 2019-12-03.
  14. "The origins of the decor - La Basilique Notre-Dame". Retrieved 2019-12-03.
  15. "Notre-Dame Roman Catholic Church / Basilica". Directory of Designations of National Historic Significance of Canada. Parks Canada. Retrieved August 15, 2011.
  16. Notre-Dame Roman Catholic Church / Basilica. Canadian Register of Historic Places. Retrieved August 15, 2011.
  17. "Justin Trudeau's eulogy". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 2000-10-03. Retrieved 2008-08-28.
  18. "Celine Dion and Rene Angelil's Wedding". Lovetripper. Retrieved 2008-08-28.
  19. René Angélil remembered at national funeral in Montreal
  20. Banerjee, Sidhartha (May 1, 2014). "Precious Napoleon artifacts on display at Montreal's Notre Dame Basilica". Whitehorse Star. Retrieved December 3, 2019.
  21. "Montreal's Notre-Dame fundraises for Paris Notre-Dame restoration". AFP International Text Wire in English. April 17, 2019. Retrieved December 3, 2019.
  • 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.
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