The incandescent blue and gold interior of Montreal’s spiritual heart dazzles visitors and pilgrims. It was once the largest house of worship in North America.
This neo-Gothic masterwork is one of the most popular locations in Montreal. Thousands enter Notre-Dame Basilica’s doors each day during the summer months. It is a Canadian national icon, hosting such high-profile events as Pope John Paul II’s 1984 visit and Celine Dion’s 1994 wedding.
The Roman Catholic church’s dual towers rise high above the low roofs of Old Montreal. In its time, the church was the largest house of worship of any religion in North America. While the basilica’s exterior is still competitive with those of the world’s great churches, it simply pales when compared to what lies inside.
Step inside Notre-Dame Basilica and prepare to be amazed; the structure features one of the most colorful and complex church interiors on the continent. Bask in the golden orange glow of the incredibly ornate altar. Raise your eyes to study the expansive vaulted ceiling, where gold stars recede into an ethereal blue.
Trace Montreal’s early history in the stained glass windows around the church. While most stained glass windows depict biblical scenes, those of Notre-Dame Basilica show scenes from the religious history of the Ville-Marie colony that became Montreal. Enter the light-filled Chapel of Notre-Dame du Sacré-Coeur and admire the contemporary linden-wood ceiling that replaced the fire-damaged original in 1982.
A 20-minute guided tour in English is included in the price of admission and is offered twice every hour. Pay an extra fee to take a 60-minute guided tour during the summer months. This includes the sacristy, the galleries and the baptistery. A huge pipe organ sits at the back of the church. Built in 1891 by the Canadian firm of Casavant et Frères, the organ is beautifully preserved. For a small fee in addition to the price of admission, watch from the balcony as the organist plays the antique instrument.
Notre-Dame Basilica rises from the middle of Old Montreal and is visible from several blocks away. It is close to both metro and bus stops. Parking can be difficult, but there is a pay parking garage nearby.