The Notre-Dame Basilica, located on rue Notre-Dame ouest (West Notre-Dame Street) dominates the square with its impressive neo-Gothic structure. The story of the church of Notre-Dame in Montreal has a colorful history of devoted architects and artistic contributors. It is said that the original architect, Protestant Irish-American James O’Donnell, was so moved by the experience of building the church that he converted to Catholicism on his deathbed in order to be buried in the crypt of the church. O’Donnell, proponent of the Gothic style revival, was the only person ever granted this honor.
Since 1829 the Notre-Dame Basilica has awed visitors with its sky-blue interior and exquisite details. The eastern tower of the Notre- Dame Montreal holds a ten-bell carillon, while the western tower, named Temperance, holds a single bell, the Jean-Baptiste bell. This ten ton bell is only rung on special occasions and can be heard 25km away.
Much of the interior of the basilica was originally designed by Victor Bourgeau, a local Montreal artist. Behind the main altar is the Chapelle Sacre Coeur (Sacred Heart Chapel) much of which was destroyed in a fire in 1982. The altar was later replaced by a 32 panel altar cast in bronze by Charles Daudelin (also from Montreal). The stained-glass windows in the Notre Dame Montreal depict the history of Ville-Marie (Montreal) and were imported from Limoges, France. Also impressive are the wood carvings of the prophets by the French sculptor, Bouriche. The rare woods used in the basilica, carved and carefully painted, are some of the most unique and awe-inspiring features of the church.
Tours of the church of Notre-Dame in Montreal run daily from 9am-4pm, though you can also go in on your own from 8am until 5pm. Entrance fees are $4CAN for adults and $2CAN children over 6 (under 6 are free). There is also a sound and light show called “Et la lumiére fut” (And There Was Light) taking place most evenings. The sound and light show uses multimedia techniques to tell the historical, cultural, architectural and spiritual story of the Notre-Dame Basilica. Over 150 artists and artisans have taken part in this work, which costs around $7 CAN for adults.