It was my first visit to Montréal and I know now… it won’t be my last! I spent four days (way too short) criss-crossing the city on foot and what I found was a charming, laid-back city with a distinct European feel. Sure, downtown Montréal, with its towering skyscrapers and broad avenues, looks very much like many North American cities, but venture a few blocks in any direction and you’ll find a variety of districts that make Montréal so unique. One of the first districts I chose to explore was the historic district of Old Montreal or Vieux Montréal. Some parts of this district date back to the 17th century and includes historic buildings like the City Hall, stately colonial mansions such as Château Ramezay, and impressive bank buildings like the former Bank of Montréal headquarters (with its Pantheon-like appearance) and the neo-classical Royal Bank Tower. The building that truly swept me off my feet though was the magnificent Notre Dame Basilica of Montréal.
this is one tourist attraction I definitely should not miss
Everyone I’d spoken to about Montréal told me that this is one tourist attraction I definitely should not miss. I was intrigued. As I stepped inside the basilica, I literally stopped in my tracks and gasped. Right before me was one of the most glorious sights I’d seen in a while.
The nave was a cavernous space accentuated by columns that seemed to reach to the sky – the sky, in this case being the ceiling which was blue and littered with golden stars. There was so much detail to absorb in that cavernous space, from the stunning columns to the stained glass windows, the magnificent wood-carved pulpit and the breathtaking altar, with its golden spiked towers against an azure blue background. It truly was a wondrous sight!
The basilica was built in the 1820’s in a Gothic Revival style. Upon its completion, the church was the largest in North America and it held that title for fifty years. The Irish American James O’Donnell designed the basilica and is the only person buried in the basilica’s crypt – James O’Donnell was a Protestant and purportedly converted to Catholicism in his dying hours so that he could be buried in the basilica!
I stood near the entrance for a while, simply admiring the interior and chuckling at the “ooohs” and “aaaahs” as people walked in. I walked to the Sacred Heart chapel behind the altar, and there I found myself nailed to the ground once again. Designed in the similar Gothic Revival style as the main church, the chapel is filled with elaborate sculptural motifs in earthy tones. The original chapel was seriously damaged during a fire in 1978 but was painstakingly restored to its original splendor, with a few changes to allow for more natural light.
The basilica is located on Place d’Armes in Old Montréal and is open daily to visitors and there is a CAD $5 charge for visitors, except for those attending mass. You can also purchase tickets for the spectacular light & sound show “And Then There Was Light” which showcases the history of Montréal and the church.
Visit Tourism Montréal for more information or read more posts of Velvet Escape’s Canada.
Note: I was hosted in Montréal by the Canadian Tourism Commission, Tourism Montréal and HouseTrip. All opinions expressed above are mine.
[…] and Art Deco buildings of Old Montréal and the breathtaking Gothic Revival style of the Notré-Dame Basilica, to the skyscrapers of Downtown and the intriguing Habitat 67 in Parc Jean-Drapeau, Montréal’s […]
Thank you Zöe. It was great touring Montreal with you! 🙂
So agree re that magnificent church Keith – it really is one of the most splendid I’ve ever seen. The blue of that ‘sky’ is beautiful and the overall impression is one of breath-taking glory. Great to see you in Montreal and like you, I hope to get back and see more another time 🙂
Keith I just love the photos you’ve included in this post- the interior of the Notre Dame looks stunning 🙂
Thanks Jade for your lovely comment! Yep, four days were not enough! 🙂
It’s so interesting when the place you abandoned for world travel becomes a cherished tourist destination for others. I spent 10 years in Montreal and, believe it or not, never stepped foot inside Notre Dame.
Goes to show you that sometimes you need to step away in order to truly appreciate something.
Four days is definitely not enough for that wonderful city! I hope you make it back soon!
Thanks for a refreshing post.
I like the design of this church..so beautiful . 🙂