Saint Joseph's Oratory

Saint Joseph's Oratory of Mount Royal (French: Oratoire Saint-Joseph du Mont-Royal) is a Roman Catholic minor basilica and national shrine on Mount Royal's Westmount Summit in Montreal, Quebec. It is Canada's largest church and claims to have one of the largest domes in the world.[1]

Saint Joseph's Oratory of Mount Royal
Oratoire Saint-Joseph du Mont-Royal
AffiliationRoman Catholic
DistrictArchdiocese of Montreal
Ecclesiastical or organizational statusMinor basilica
LeadershipFather Claude Grou
Location3800, chemin Queen Mary
Montreal, Quebec
H3V 1H6
Shown within Montreal
Geographic coordinates45°29′30″N 73°37′00″W
Architect(s)Dalbé Viau, Alphonse Venne, Lucien Parent, Emilien Bujold and Dom Paul Bellot
TypeOratory, domed basilica
StyleItalian renaissance
Construction cost$2.3 Million (CAD)
Direction of façadeNNW
Capacity10,000 / 2,400 sitting
Length105 metres (344 ft)
Width65 metres (213 ft)
Width (nave)37 metres (121 ft)
Height (max)129 metres (423 ft)
Dome(s)one (1)
Dome height (outer)97 metres (318 ft) (from nave floor)
Dome height (inner)60 metres (200 ft) (from nave floor)
Dome dia. (outer)39 metres (128 ft)
Dome dia. (inner)26 metres (85 ft)
MaterialsCanadian granite, copper
Official name: Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal National Historic Site of Canada

The basilica enshrines a statue of Saint Joseph, which was authorised a Canonical coronation by Pope Pius X on 19 March 1910 via Cardinal Vincenzo Vannutelli, previously enshrined at the Côte-des-Neiges Chapel. The image moved to the new modern basilica and was recrowned on 9 August 1955 via Cardinal Paul-Émile Léger now located within its oil chapel department. The shrine is also famous due to its association with Brother Andre Bessette who was believed to possess healing powers through his Josephian devotion with its notable oil ointment given freely to its believers.


In 1904, Saint André Bessette, C.S.C., began the construction of St. Joseph, a small chapel on the slopes of Mont Royal near Notre Dame College.[2] Soon the growing number of the congregation made it too small. In 1917 a larger church was completed that had a seating capacity of 1,000. In 1924, the construction of the basilica of Saint Joseph's Oratory was commenced; it was finally completed in 1967.[2] Father Paul Bellot, an architect, completed the dome of Saint Joseph's Oratory between 1937 and 1939.

In 1949–1951, architect Gilbert Moreau carried out alterations and improvements to the interior of Saint Joseph's Oratory, as well as to the adjacent monastery, and rearranged the sacristy in the basilica.[3]

The basilica is dedicated to Saint Joseph, to whom Brother André credited all his reported miracles. These were mostly related to some kind of healing power, and many pilgrims (handicapped, blind, ill, etc.) poured into his Basilica, including numerous non-Catholics. On display in the basilica is a wall covered with thousands of crutches from those who came to the basilica and were purportedly healed. Pope John Paul II deemed the miracles to be authentic and beatified Brother André in 1982. In October 2010 Pope Benedict XVI canonized the saint.

A reliquary in the church museum contains Brother André's heart, which he requested as a protection for the basilica. More than 2 million visitors and pilgrims visit the Oratory every year. It is located at 3800 Queen Mary Road, at Côte-des-Neiges (between the Côte-des-Neiges metro station and the Snowdon metro station).

Composer Émilien Allard notably served as the church's carillonneur from 1955 to 1975. For RCA Victor he released the LP album Carols at the Carillon of Saint Joseph's Oratory for which he wrote the arrangements.[4]

21st century

On October 19, 2004, the Oratory held its centennial. All the bells of all the churches on the island of Montreal were supposed to ring at 9:00 a.m., though not all churches participated. At 9:05 a.m., the basilica rang its bell in response and celebration.

In 2004, the Oratory was designated a National Historic Site of Canada on the occasion of its 100th anniversary.[5][6]

On 2 April 2004 Canada Post issued 'Saint Joseph's Oratory, Quebec' in the 2004 Tourist Attractions series. The stamp was designed by Catharine Bradbury & William Stewart based on a photograph by Bernard Brault. The 49¢ stamps are perforated kiss cut and were printed by Lowe-Martin Company Inc.[7]

On October 30, 2007, Father Charles Corso, a priest at the Oratory, was faced with a disorganized and depressed man who threatened to kill himself with a handgun.[8] The priest talked with the man and managed to calm him down before police arrived on scene. The man was brought to hospital to undergo psychiatric evaluation.[8]

On March 22, 2019, a 26-year-old man wearing a dark winter coat and light-coloured baseball cap entered the Oratory during the Friday morning mass, rapidly walked up to the centre, and stabbed the celebrating priest, Father Claude Grou.[9][10][8] Of the fifty people attending mass, several intervened to neutralize the assailant, before security guards responded. Police officers from the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal quickly arrived on scene and arrested the assaillant who was already detained by security personnel.[11] The assaulted priest suffered only minor injuries, a single stab wound to the chest.[8] That same evening, upon being wheeled out of the Montreal General Hospital, he said, "My health is fine. I’ll take a little rest and I will be back to work when my rest is taken. And the Oratory will remain a place where people can be welcomed. A place of prayers, and a place of calm, and a place of peace - even if there are some moments like that."[8]

See also

Notes and references

  1. "Bellot, Father Paul in Biographical Dictionary of Architects in Canada 1800–1950". Retrieved November 16, 2011.
  2. Pound, Richard W. (2005). 'Fitzhenry and Whiteside Book of Canadian Facts and Dates'. Fitzhenry and Whiteside.
  3. "Moreau, Gilbert in Biographical Dictionary of Architects in Canada 1800–1950". Retrieved November 16, 2011.
  4. "La vie et la mort d'un carillonneur", Musique périodique, vol 1, Jan–Feb 1977
  5. "The Government of Canada Commemorates the National Historic Significance of Saint Joseph's Oratory of Mount Royal". News Release. Parks Canada. 2005-09-19. Retrieved 2009-01-08.
  6. Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal National Historic Site of Canada. Canadian Register of Historic Places. Retrieved August 17, 2011.
  7. "Canada Post Stamp". Archived from the original on 2016-02-02. Retrieved 2019-05-20.
  8. Gould, Kevin; Luft, Amy (March 22, 2019). "Priest stabbed at Saint Joseph's Oratory says he looks forward to returning to work". Bell Media. CTV News Montreal. Retrieved 23 March 2019.
  9. Lau, Rachel (March 22, 2019). "Priest transported to hospital after stabbing at Saint Joseph's Oratory". Corus News. Global News. Retrieved 23 March 2019.
  10. Olson, Isaac (March 22, 2019). "Priest stabbed during morning mass at Montreal's Saint Joseph's Oratory". CBC/Radio-Canada. CBC News. Retrieved 23 March 2019.
  11. "St. Joseph's Oratory stabbing: 'People will come to pray for Father Grou'". Postmedia Network. Montreal Gazette. Retrieved 23 March 2019.
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