Montreal Saint-Joseph Oratory

140401_0001Roman Catholic Churches are usually well constructed and decorated; however, I have yet to see a Catholic Church built at the magnitude of St Joseph Oratory. In fact, it is Canada’s largest church.

The church was originally started by Brother Andre, a very small stature individual who worked as doorman and janitor at Notre-Dame College and who people have reported performed many miracles. Between the late 1870’s to 1904, his popularity had grown so much that thousands of people came to him for healing. To manage the influx of pilgrims lingering around the college every day, he constructed a roofless chapel with the help of supporters in 1904. This roofless chapel has become today the largest church in Montreal. Ironically, the man to whom the Oratory is dedicated to has never seen the finished project.

Located on top of the Westmount Summit— one of the three peaks of Mount Royal— the Oratory welcomes over 140401_0052two million people each year. It is open to anyone: simple visitors, tourists, fervent catholic practitioners and pilgrims. Regardless of religion or belief system, it can be a secular delight or a spiritual sanctuary.

Divided in three parts, the Museum is where sits the heart of Brother Andre in a reliquary. Through the Nativity exhibition, one can appreciate the work of artists from around the world representing the nativity scenes from their culture. It is a great way to showcase the diversity of Montreal and the many ethnicities that inhabit the city. It also names the different materials used to create the artifacts (scissors, woods, etc.)

140401_0015Situated 856 feet above sea level, the Basilica houses the second largest dome (copper) in the world and is the highest point in Montreal. To reach the main entrance, one has to climb 283 stairs by foot or 99 steps on your knees for pilgrims. The Basilica can seat three thousand people and one wall is covered with crutches from healed pilgrims.

Additionally, there is garden with over 900 tress of 20 different species along 140401_0045with beautiful flowers and plants. Unfortunately I did not get a chance to see the garden during my visit.

Standing in from of the main gate, I was amazed by the size of this historical/religious landmark. All in all, if you are ever in Montreal, the Oratory is a site to see in Person.

– Billy St-Louis, International Business Major, Spring 2014