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Canada's first Gothic Revival building

Published May 20, 2022
Updated Oct 27, 2022

📍 🇨🇦 The first Gothic Revival building in Canada

Founded in 1642, Montreal was closely linked to the Society of the Priests of Saint Sulpice, which with the colonization of the Americas and the creation of the Société Notre-Dame de Montréal in 1641, acquired the island and sailed towards it.

The Sulpicians and other Catholic religious communities played a key role in the city’s development, mostly through the evangelization of the Indigenous people and the care for the ill. The Société ND brought settlers from France to Montréal, including the two co-founders of the city (also known as Ville Marie): Jeanne Mance (1606-1673) and Paul de Chomedey de Maisonneuve (1612-1676). The latter is honoured in the statue facing ND and Jeanne Mance appears on the church’s stained glass windows.

In 1823, New York architect James O’Donnell (1774-1830) was commissioned to build the new church to replace the 1672 one; it became the first Gothic Revival building in Canada and the largest place of worship in North America until St Patrick’s Cathedral in NYC was built (1879).

“Then with the aid of windlasses which were worked by strapping, big fellows, architect and granite were lifted up into the air… and for at least 10 minutes Mr. O’Donnell was the object of an ovation which his dead colleague Michelangelo had never received in his lifetime.” Report about the cornerstone placement (Le National).

This Gothic Revival architectural monument is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, patron saint of Montreal, and is the symbol of the city’s Catholic roots and courageous past. The church’s two towers are inspired by those of ND de Paris and the Church of Saint Sulpice.

____ Sources ____

>> Le National, 18 March, 1876

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