Sitting high above the city, this modern basilica and “house of miracles” offers tranquility, soaring Italian Renaissance architecture and Montreal’s best views.
Saint Joseph’s Oratory church was founded in 1904 by Brother André Bessette. After the congregation rapidly outgrew the church twice, construction began on a third church in 1924. The modern 3,000-seat church that resulted is still the largest church in Canada, and its copper dome is one of the world’s largest.
Built on the slopes of Mount Royal, the hill at the heart of Montreal, Saint Joseph’s Oratory towers over the city around it. Walk up the steps of the long promenade to the church’s balcony and enjoy views that stretch for miles. Look for the Rivière des Prairies in the distance, which borders the island of Montreal to the north.
The inside of the church is open and brightly lit. Angular arches run along the nave, and colored lighting adds cheer to the tall ceilings. During his lifetime, Brother André gained a reputation for having healing powers and was later canonized as a saint. Look around the church to see the crutches hanging from the walls which are a testimony to his special gift.
Check out the votive chapel, which features a dazzling display of light and color. Long slopes of red and green candles lead up to an illuminated statue of Saint Joseph, patron saint of Canada. A blue light illuminates him from above.
Pay a small fee to visit the oratory museum which contains holy relics including the heart of Brother Andrè. The museum also contains over 200 nativity scenes collected from all over the world.
Getting to Saint Joseph’s Oratory involves uphill walking, regardless of what form of transportation you take. There is a bus stop at the end of the promenade and the closest metro stops are several blocks to the west. The church offers parking, but it charges a fee on all days except Sunday. Despite the many steps leading up to its doors, the church is completely wheelchair accessible.