Notre Dame Basilica of Montreal
Notre Dame Basilica of Montreal, constructed between 1824 and 1829, was the country’s first major example of the Gothic Revival style. In the 1820s, a group of influential Montréal businessmen and the Sulpicians took control of the parish of Notre-Dame. The Sulpicians were a powerful Roman Catholic religious order who had ruled the island of Montréal as its priests and seigneurs for centuries.
The Sulpicians sought to outdo the city’s newly constructed Roman Catholic and Anglican churches with their new parish church. James O’Donnell, an American Protestant architect, was commissioned by the Sulpicians to construct a state-of-the-art church large enough to seat more than eight thousand people. The resulting Notre-Dame cathedral functioned as the city’s central place of worship.
For the next fifty years, it outsized every other church in North America. An early example of the Gothic Revival style in Canadian church construction, it features a simple nave plan with galleries and twin towers. It’s a more informal, Romantic take on the Gothic Revival style than the more formal Ecclesiological Gothic Revival adopted by many of Canada’s great Anglican and Roman Catholic cathedrals in the middle to late 19th century.
In order to finish decorating the church in the 19th and 20th centuries, the parish employed several of the most renowned architects and artisans in Quebec. After O’Donnell’s passing, in 1843, architect John Ostell completed the twin towers in accordance with the original design. O’Donnell’s interior was redecorated in a more ornate Gothic Revival style by famous architect Victor Bourgeau between 1872 and 1880.
To decorate the main altar and the huge reredos that runs down the east side of the chancel, Bourgeau commissioned French sculptor Henri Bouriché. Between 1883 and 1887, Montreal sculptor Louis-Philippe Hébert worked from Bouriché’s designs to create a pulpit. Artist from Quebec, Ozias Leduc, decorated vaults, walls, doors, and stained glass windows in 1926.