Notre-Dame Basilica de Montreal. Church in Montreal, Quebec

Notre-Dame Basilica de Montreal

Church in Montreal, Quebec

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Notre-Dame Basilica de Montreal

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 - Notre-Dame Basilica de
Notre-Dame Basilica de Montreal. Photo by Hansol
Churches are known to be holy places where Christian believers gather to worship God and pray. For them, it is a place where they can connect with God. Notre-Dame Basilica De Montreal is no different from a church, but other than the closeness and connection to God, this magnificent Catholic Church, the biggest in Montreal is the true definition of breathtaking.

The pictures truly depict the beauty of the church! When inside the Notre-Dame Basilica, one immediately feels the peace and serenity radiating from the amazing artworks and the architectural design of the structure. The greatest irony is that the most enchanting religious relic exists in a city where religion lost its significance decades ago.

“A few puffs of air while inside and you feel like your entire soul is filled with unexplainable divine spirituality.” Notre-Dame Basilica is the most remarkable place to visit in Montreal.
Notre-Dame Basilica De Montreal is a basilica in Old Montreal, a historic district in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. It is situated at 110 Notre-Dame Street West at the turn of Saint Sulpice Street, next to the Saint-Sulpice Seminary and facing the Place d’Armes (Wikipedia Article) square.


Montreal was initially known as ‘Ville-Marie’ in the year 1657 when the Roman Catholic Sulpician Order was introduced to the city. The seigneury (a semi-feudal lordship above lands declared by the king of France) of the island was bestowed upon them 6 years later, which they ruled until 1840. The parish they established was committed to the Holy Name of Mary. Notre-Dame parish church was then built on site in the year 1672.

Architect François Baillairgé (Wikipedia Article) designed the interior decoration and choir, which took him 10 years (1785 to 1795), as well as the frontage and vault decoration in 1818. Notre-Dame served as the first cathedral of the Diocese of Montreal from 1821 – 1822.

Nave - Notre-Dame Basilica
	de Montreal
Nave - Notre-Dame Basilica de Montreal. Photo by Emmanuel Huybrechts

 - Notre-Dame Basilica de
Notre-Dame Basilica de Montreal. Photo by Wally Gobetz
The congregation had utterly outgrown the church by 1824. James O’Donnell, an Irish-American Protestant from New York, was authorized to design the new structure. O’Donnell was an advocate of the Gothic Revival architectural movement which is why he designed the church as such. It is believed that O’Donnell’s experience in designing Notre-Dame extremely affected him, so much that he changed to Catholicism just before his passing, the year 1930. As of now, he remains to be the only person buried in the crypt of the church.

When the construction work was concluded, Notre-Dame became the biggest church in North America. The inside took more time and Victor Bourgeau, who had the experience of working on Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral in Montreal, also worked on the church from 1872 – 1879. A major contributor to the construction of the Basilica was John Redpath, a stonemason.

Due to the beauty and extent of the church, a more private chapel called the Chapelle du Sacré-Coeur (Sacred Heart Chapel) was constructed behind it, together with a sacristy and some offices. The Basilica was completed in the year 1888. Unfortunately on December 7, 1978, a great arson fire demolished Sacré-Coeur Chapel, but it was later reconstructed with the first two levels being replicated from old photographs and drawings, with contemporary reredos and vaulting, and a massive bronze altarpiece by Charles Daudelin, a Quebec sculptor.

Notre-Dame was elevated by Pope John II to the status of a ‘minor basilica’ during his visit to Montreal on April 21, 1982. The church was also the location for the state funeral of Pierre Trudea, the 15th prime minister of Canada, in the year 2000, and the scene for Celine Dion’s wedding to René Angélil.

Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal /4 - Notre-Dame Basilica de Montreal
Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal /4 - Notre-Dame Basilica de Montreal. Photo by Giovanni Variottinelli

Notre-Dame Basilica’s Treasures

Out of hundreds of churches on Montreal Island, Notre-Dame Basilica is the only one that has the most stunning interior, with an affluence of superb detail, most of it designed from scarce woods that have been intricately painted and gilded.
Victor Bourgeau carved the main altar from linden wood. The altar consisting of 32 panels symbolizing birth, life and death, was cast in bronze by Charles Daudelin of Montreal.

The east tower contains a 10-bell carillon while the west tower accommodates a single gigantic bell nicknamed "Le Gros Bourdon," and weighs over 12 tons. The massive bell has a low, deep echo that you can feel up through your feet when it vibrates. It is usually only rings on special occasions.

Its Gothic Revival architecture is one of the most dramatic worldwide - the inside is majestic and colorful, the ceiling colored deep blue and embellished with golden stars, and the other parts of the haven is executed in several colors of azures, blues, purples, reds, gold and silver. As if this that wasn’t enough, it is also filled with hundreds of complex wood carvings and an assortment of religious statues.

Contrary to other churches’ appearance of biblical depictions, Notre-Dame Basilica’s stained glass windows alongside the walls of the sanctuary do not portray biblical scenes; they portray scenes from Montreal’s history.

Also contained in the church is a Casavant Frères pipe organ that dates back to the year 1891. It consists of 4 keyboards, 92 stops utilizing electro-pneumatic action and an alterable mix system, 7,000 separate pipes and a pedal board.
Notre-Dame basilica provides organ performances and musical programming of choral. There is normally an annual performance of Handel’s Messiah that takes place in December during Christmas.

Public Access

To access Notre-Dame De Basilica, you will be charged an entry fee of $5.00 CAD for all visitors. However, they do not charge for mass attendance.
There is also a sound and light show called ‘And then there was light’. It details the history of the church and is offered every evening between Tuesday and Saturday. The ticket charges are $10 CAD for adults (18 years and above), $9 CAD for seniors and $5 CAD for children and young adults.

How to Get There by Public Transit


Board the Orange line to Place d’Armes Station then exit on Saint-Urbain Street and walk uphill toward Place D’Armes Square.


Board the southbound Saint-Laurent bus No. 55, then alight at the Notre-Dame Street stop east of the Basilica.
Please visit Société des Transports de Montréal's site online for more information


Notre-Dame De Basilica is usually open for prayer daily from 7.30 a.m., all days of the week. No visitors are allowed inside between 4.00 p.m. Saturday to 12.30 p.m. Sunday out of consideration for those taking part in religious worship.
Visitors are allowed in Monday – Friday 8.00 a.m. to 4.30 p.m., Saturday 8.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. and Sunday 12.30 p.m. to 4.00 p.m..

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Author: marisa. Last updated: Jan 27, 2015


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