Montreal is a busy, bustling city with sights galore. For those who wish to experience a piece of the city’s fascinating history, a visit to the Notre Dame Basilica will be satisfying. As one of the city’s oldest buildings, Notre Dame Basilica is a favorite location for visitors who have an interest in Gothic architecture and like places of historical significance.
The basilica’s history is as rich as the building itself. It began as a parish church in the 17th century that grew over the years until it became necessary to enlarge the church in the mid 1800’s. The design of this project was commissioned to an American named James O’Donnell who was an Irish Protestant and enthusiast of the Gothic Revival Movement in architecture.
Some say it was because he was completely obsessed with this church, and others insist it was a genuine holy experience, but regardless of the motive, O’Donnell made a deathbed conversion to Catholicism that ensured his burial in the crypt of his beloved church.
In 1982, during a visit to the church, Pope John Paul II dictated that the church’s status was elevated to that of basilica. In 1989, the basilica was bestowed additional notoriety by being declared a National Historic Site of Canada.
Points of Interest
One of the main attractions of this basilica is its massive pipe organ. It consists of more than 1,000 pipes that can be heard throughout the building and it dramatically adds to the overall Gothic atmosphere. Those who are interested in the history of the church, as well as seeing more examples of the careful craftsmanship, should include a trip to the crypt in their tour of the basilica. The crypt is a treasure-trove of historical information on the church, as well as a resting place for the church’s designer.
The main sanctuary was designed to represent the religious significance of the Eucharist as well as the mass itself. French designer Cure Rousselot planned and fashioned the place of worship with ornate details, statues, choir stalls, and sculpted pieces that are grouped together to depict Biblical stories and themes.
The central theme of the basilica is the crucifixion of Jesus, which is illustrated with statuesque versions of Christ on the cross. Around this crucifixion scene are four other scenes, each from a portion of the Old Testament.
Guided tours are available for the basilica, for a small fee. The Grand Tour is available from June through October and includes a wealth of information, trivia, and legends that are sure to inspire, awe, and amaze its visitors. This tour, which lasts approximately one hour, includes areas of the basilica that are private.
The Notre Dame Basilica in Montreal has a colorful history and is a majestic and beautiful crown jewel of the city. Those who wish to tour this magnificent building are encouraged to call ahead and make a reservation.