Friday, September 4, 2015

Montreal. The Magnificent Notre-Dame Basilica.


Today, Maxy and I took a break from the kids, leaving them behind to explore Kingston on their own.  We hit the road and headed up to Montreal.  The drive from DC up to Kingston was Maxy's first time at doing a long distance drive and who knew she would fall in love with driving.  So, when I suggested she and I escape to Montreal for the day, she was all in, even though it meant a three hour long drive!

We decided to hit the road early, leaving our hotel in Kingston shortly after 7a.  The kids were still asleep.

The traffic on Highway 401 was light and we arrived into the outskirts of Montreal shortly after 10a.  I had set the destination point on Google Maps to the Notre-Dame Basilica which is located in the heart of old Montreal.  Since we only had a few hours in town, I figured both M and I would enjoy being in the old part of the city.

We managed to find a parking lot a couple of blocks away from the church.  For CAD $17 for the entire day, parking was reasonable considering the convenient location.

We headed right for the Notre-Dame Basilica.  There was already a line waiting to get inside.  When we got to the front of the line, we bought our entry tickets and headed on inside.  We had a few minutes to wander about before the English tour would begin at 11a.

Maxy and I split up.  Actually, I was so captivated by the magnificent interior of the church that I didn't even notice her walking away from me.  I wanted to capture as much of it as I could - every which way I looked, there was a photo to be had.

The church was not large which gave it a very intimate feel.  The interior had a very opulent, luxurious look to it - lots of gold, dark wood which is all black walnut, and stained glass windows and ceiling inserts.  The church was crowded with tourists but there's an unwritten code that you should speak in soft voices so aside from the sound of footsteps, it was relatively quiet.  I spotted Maxy, sitting quietly in a pew, near the front of the church.  She seemed to be contemplating so I let her be and walked around the church on my own.  Such a stunning space!




I met back up with Maxy just a few minutes before the tour began.   It was a pretty large group but we all managed to fit into a few rows of pews.  Maxy and I were right up front so we could hear the guide speak.  With a heavy Québecois accent, our guide told us more about the history of Montreal and this magnificent church.



As she spoke, she pointed out the pulpit to us.  The detail of the painted woodwork was incredible!  Originally, the pulpit was where the priest stood to deliver his sermon but it's no longer used today having been replaced by the altar up front.


After the guide finished her talk, she led us around to see some of the interior's highlights starting with the organ which is a relatively recent addition to the church.  It was built in 1891.


She then pointed out the circular stained glass ceiling inserts, several of which provided the backdrop to lightbulbs.  As we continued to gaze up at the ceiling, she pointed out all the gold stars that were painted up there.


She then led us up to the altar and gave us some history on its background as well as a description of the statues housed in the niches on either side of Christ.  The current blue toned backdrop is apparently not the original which was stained glass.  I can't imagine what that would have looked like but the jewel toned blue shade of the current background most certainly makes the gold colored statues of the altar stand out.  All in all, it's just gloriously stunning to look at!




Then, she took us to the chapel, located behind the altar.

It was a dramatically different looking space from the basilica.  The room was decorated with light colored woods and sunlight poured down from skylights.  The chapel felt contemporary and very airy.

In 1889, Curé Léon-Alfred Sentenne commissioned the architects Perreault and Mesnard to build the Chapel of Notre-Dame du Sacré-Cœur (Our Lady of the Sacred Heart) to accommodate ceremonies for smaller congregations, such as marriages and funerals. The chapel was consecrated on December 8, 1891.





If I remember the massive altar piece is rendered in bronze.  I can't remember exactly how much it weighs but I do remember gasping at the number when the guide said it!




The tour ended after our visit to the chapel.  On the way out of the basilica, we walked down one of the aisles - I had walked the other side earlier.

Oblivious to the noise and all the tourists around, people were lighting candles and quietly praying.




Before leaving, I took one last photo of this extraordinarily beautiful church.  I've not been to any other church in Montreal but this one would be truly hard to beat!


As we exited, we pretty much both agreed that visiting the basilica was definitely worth the experience!  It was now time to explore old Montreal!