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Beautiful Religious Buildings Walking Tour (Self Guided), Montreal

This walk is designed to give you a religion- and architecture-infused introduction to Vieux-Montréal, the city's oldest part, full of hot spots and hidden gems. Most churches, chapels and cathedrals here stand as testament to the religious fervor that inspired the French settlers who landed in the mid-17-th century to build a “Christian commonwealth”. Notably, however, this is all balanced out with a distinct Anglophone touch following large migrations from England and the British Isles in later years. A chance to compare both French and British traditions that flourished in the city before it became known for its social liberalism and more hedonistic attitude.
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Beautiful Religious Buildings Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Beautiful Religious Buildings Walking Tour
Guide Location: Canada » Montreal (See other walking tours in Montreal)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 7
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.2 Km or 2.6 Miles
Author: doris
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • St. George's Anglican Church
  • Cathedrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde
  • Christ Church Cathedral
  • St. Patrick's Basilica
  • Notre-Dame Basilica
  • Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours
  • Our Lady of Lourdes Chapel (Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes)
1
St. George's Anglican Church

1) St. George's Anglican Church

Named for Saint George, the patron saint of England and inspired by that country's 13th-century religious architecture, St George's features prominent pinnacles and pointed arches, along with stained-glass windows, wooden carvings, a double hammer-beam ceiling and a column-free interior. The magnificent ceiling beams look grand and awe-inspiring, and the Lady Chapel on the east side of the main altar adds to the effect.

Opened in 1843 to accommodate the overflow of worshipers from the Christ Church Cathedral, the church boasts tapestry that finds its origins in Westminster Abbey, London, and was used during Queen Elizabeth II's coronation. It all certainly seems a world away from Centre Bell, the modern temple to professional hockey that's right across the street.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 9am–4pm
2
Cathedrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde

2) Cathedrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde (must see)

Montréal has many beautiful churches and this is one of those that you should see when visiting downtown. Despite being nestled among many high-rise structures, its dome is unmistakable, modeled on St. Peter's in Rome. Though somewhat “scaled-down”, the church is a perfect replica of the same, right down to the red copper baldachin over the altar that was fully hand-carved in Rome.

Dating back to in the 1890s, the cathedral appears older than its years, while at the same time feeling relatively modern as compared to Notre-Dame across town or even other cathedrals in other major cities – mostly due to the cleaner, simpler design. While not particularly ornate, the interior is still pretty, marked by soft hues that lend a gentle and slightly feminine touch. On a sunny day, the brilliant colors of the stained glass windows make it easy to observe the details – from the vibrant ceiling to the altar and the beautiful organ pipes at the back. You may also notice the baptismal font is surmounted by an impressive stucco crucifix – one of the most important pieces of religious sculpture in Quebec.

While the floor and walls are covered in Italian marble the main works of art are dedicated to the city's devout Catholics, including depictions of Marguerite Bourgeoys and Grey Nuns founder Marguerite d'Youville. Like St. Peter's, the cathedral also has 13 statues that adorn the facade, but breaking with tradition they do not represent Jesus and the 12 apostles. Instead, they represent the patron saints of parishes that offered them to the diocese and include Saint Hyacinthe, Saint Francis of Assisi, and Saint John the Baptist.

Why You Should Visit:
Peaceful and ornate, this Cathedral will make you feel as if you are in an old basilica in Europe.

Tip:
Don't forget to check the gift shop that has many unique gift and jewelry items.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 7am-6:15pm; Sat-Sun: 7:30am-6:15pm; free admission
3
Christ Church Cathedral

3) Christ Church Cathedral

This landmark of downtown Montreal is an excellent example of Gothic Revival style in Canada. The detailed exterior of pointed arches, buttresses, and crenellated turrets conceals a sober but elegant wood/marble interior. Built between 1857-60 to a design by the distinguished architect Frank Wills, the structure reflects an Anglican ideal of its time: namely, a return to the English medieval church in both liturgy and architecture.

To be fair, it's a very unusual church for a number of reasons. One is that the whole of the terra firma beneath the church was sold to developers to create a huge underground shopping mall ("Promenades Cathédrale"), which links the Underground City to Eaton's. What further strikes as rather unusual is the "stave church" style of the roof's interior recalling Scandinavian Churches one may see around Bergen, Norway, while the beautiful old art may strike as perhaps more fitting to be in an Eastern Orthodox Church with its flat, gold-trimmed icon depictions of the Holy Family.

Unlike other main houses of worship in Montreal, the building is open most of the time and there are no admission fees. There is usually a warm welcome for visitors and the music is outstanding.

***The RMS Titanic Walking Tour***
A memorial tablet to 23-year-old Vivan Arthur Ponsonby Payne, "erected by 125 of his associates", can be found in the Chapel of St. John of Jerusalem, to the left side of the main altar. Payne was a secretary of Charles Hays, president of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railroad, whom he accompanied on a trip to Europe, his first trip abroad. The young man wrote his mother stating how astonished he was at how green the countryside in England was in March, but the vacation was cut short when Hays learned that his daughter Louise was having complications in the last stages of her pregnancy; also, he wanted to be back home for the imminent opening of his new hotel, the Château Laurier in Ottawa. Payne boarded the Titanic at Southampton as a first-class passenger, but died in the sinking and his body, if recovered, was never identified. Christ Church Cathedral is also where Harry Markland Molson, another victim of the Titanic disaster, worshipped.
4
St. Patrick's Basilica

4) St. Patrick's Basilica (must see)

Built in 1847, during the Famine Migration from Ireland, St. Patrick's is to Montréal's Anglophone Catholics what the Notre-Dame Basilica is to their French-speaking brethren. Among the country's purest examples of the Gothic Revival style, it was declared a historic monument and a National Historic site of Canada in 1996. A true feast for the eyes, you will gorge on its magnificent beauty and revel in the intricate ornate details imbued within.

Stained glass windows adorn the basilica throughout its corners and walls, and on a sunny day, the interior blossoms into a dazzling cornucopia of colour. The tall, slender columns are actually pine logs lashed together and decorated to look like marble, lending an air of majesty and solemness. Another major attraction is the large hanging lamp weighing 1,800 pounds, with six angels adorning the perimeter. You've never seen anything quite like it.

Why You Should Visit:
Not as opulent as Notre-Dame, but lovely on its own. It's lighter and brighter, with glorious woodwork and other details.
On a sunny day, the stained glass windows and Gothic architecture are textbook perfect and golden in hue.
Plus, the place is free to visit and you'll probably be the only tourist there, free to sit and contemplate.

Tip:
Visit after lunch and you might catch the organist practicing for upcoming services.
A side door is usually unlocked most days in case you can't get through the main entrance.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 8:30am–5:15pm; Sat: 10:30am–5pm; Sun: 8:30am–5pm
5
Notre-Dame Basilica

5) Notre-Dame Basilica (must see)

A stunning example of Gothic Revival architecture, the Notre-Dame Basilica is renowned for its lavish, colorful and dramatic interior. Filled with hundreds of intricate wooden carvings and several religious statues, it was declared a National Historic Site of Canada in 1989. The $10 admission fee doesn't turn away tourists who line up to be admitted, using the very informative brochure as a self-guide (additionally, a 20-minute English/French tour is free with entry).

You get a feel for the basilica's grandness right as you approach its bell towers rising high and its three statues looking out over the metropolis: the Virgin Mary (representing Montréal), St. John the Baptist (representing Québec), and St. Joseph (representing Canada). Inside, the vaults are colored deep blue and decorated with golden stars, while the rest of the sanctuary is decorated in blues, azures, reds, purples, silver, and gold. Unusual for a church, too, the stained glass windows along the walls do not depict biblical scenes, but rather the religious and social life of the early Ville-Marie settlement, showing the city's strong ties to the Catholic religion. Another spectacular highlight is the Casavant Frères pipe organ, dated 1891, which comprises four keyboards and 7000 individual pipes.

Notre-Dame Basilica has witnessed several grand weddings (including Céline Dion's) and funerals of eminent personalities. If you're interested in classical and religious music, the building plays host to concerts throughout the year.

Tip:
The 'AURA' light show (presented usually at 7 and 9pm) is exceptional but sometimes full so plan your visit: you can book your ticket online or come early before the show timing. Try sitting somewhere in the middle – between 50-70% from the front, and more towards the middle to get the best music & light experience.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 8am–4:30pm; Sat: 8am–4pm; Sun: 12:30pm–4pm
6
Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours

6) Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours

Built in 1771 as the first Marian pilgrimage site of Montreal, Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours is today regarded as a treasure. The oldest surviving chapel in the Old City, it sits directly on top of an older church of 1675 that was destroyed by fire. Recently uncovered, the ruins of the original chapel are now accessible, and excavations give an insight into times when Montreal was still under French rule.

The interior decor is simple and elegant, with pretty hanging lamps shaped like sailing ships that give the chapel a nautical flair in keeping with its reputation as a Sailors' Church. Additionally, you may climb the wooden stairs up the spire to enjoy spectacular views of St Lawrence River with the Old Port, remnants of Expo 67 and, of course, angels on the chapel itself.

The chapel also houses a museum dedicated to Marguerite Bourgeoys, founder of the Notre-Dame congregation, which includes a guided audio tour of the underground former crypt.

Why You Should Visit:
Definitely worth a peek inside to see the gorgeous ship replicas hanging from the ceiling and to climb the tower looking out over the harbour. Around the front, you'll see Our Lady of the Harbour herself, immortalized in the Leonard Cohen song 'Suzanne' ("And the sun pours down like honey / On our lady of the harbour"). The attached museum is also worth the time.

Tip:
Make sure you go around to the back, facing out to the St. Lawrence, as this could be the only church you'll ever see where the view of the back eclipses that of the front!

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 11am-4pm
Jan 16 - Feb 28: closed
7
Our Lady of Lourdes Chapel (Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes)

7) Our Lady of Lourdes Chapel (Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes)

Built in 1876, Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes is an architectural masterpiece and a religious gem designed by famed artist Napoléon Bourassa. A dazzling mix of Byzantine and Roman style, it was called "a labor of love" by its designer – and it shows. Located between the University of Quebec and the Latin Quarter, the church instantly cuts you off from the noise and traffic of the busy downtown and transports to a completely tranquil, unabashedly sentimental world filled with color and paint. Our Lady of Lourdes may not be the biggest monument in the city but is definitely one of the most charming; a good place if you want some quietness and rest after moving around for the whole day.

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