In 1611 Samuel de Champlain established a fur trading post called La Place Royale on Île de Montréal (Island of Mount Royal) at the confluence of the St Lawrence and Ottawa Rivers. This was the point where the first rapids interrupted navigation of the St Lawrence. Settlers arrived in 1639 and in 1642 a mission called Ville Marie was established to convert the Indians to Christianity. The town of Ville-Marie grew and in time it took the name of the island, Montréal. Nowadays it is a sprawling city with over 3.5 million people living in its metropolitan area making it one of the largest French speaking cities in the world.
Bonsecours Market & Notre Dame de Bon Secours Chapel
Bonsecours Market with its lofty dome is a Montréal landmark. Designed by architects William Footner and George Browne, the market operated from 1847 to 1963. The building is now a tourist shopping centre. It was named after Notre Dame de Bon Secours Chapel whose spire is visible immediately to the right of the market building. The current chapel dates from 1771 and it houses a 16th century statuette of the Virgin credited with miraculous powers. In 1754 the statuette escaped damage in a fire that virtually destroyed the original 1657 chapel.
Oratoire St Joseph
With a dome that is second in size only to St Peter’s in Rome, you might think that Oratoire St Joseph qualifies as an ancient monument. In reality the largest church in Canada was built between 1924 and 1956. At the turn of the 19th/ 20th century, a porter at nearby Collège Notre-Dame known as Brother André built up a reputation as a healer. He built a small chapel in honour of St Joseph on the hill facing the college, but as Brother André’s fame as a healer spread the chapel soon became too small and in 1924 work started on building a large shrine to his patron saint. Brother André died in 1937 before the shrine was completed and was buried in the basilica. His original chapel still stands next to the huge shrine. Click on Tab 2 for a view of the original chapel.
Hôtel de Ville
Built between 1872 and 1878 the Montréal Town Hall has a classic French style, although its location on the relatively narrow Rue Notre-Dame makes it difficult to get a good photograph of it. The interior which matches the ornate style of the exterior can be seen on guided tours. In 1922 the building was severely damaged by a major fire that left only the exterior walls standing. Probably the greatest claim to fame of this building is that it was from the balcony above the entrance that in 1967 French President Charles de Gaulle proclaimed “Vive le Québec Libre” thereby boosting the separatist movement in Québec Province to the great consternation of the Canadian Government.
La Maison Pierre du Calvet, Montréal
Built in 1725 this house was the home of wealthy merchant Pierre du Calvet. A French Huguenot, du Calvet supported the American Revolution and he had several meetings with Benjamin Franklin here in 1775. As a result of his support for the Americans, du Calvet was imprisoned from 1780 to 1783. The house is now an Auberge (an Inn).
Place Jacques Cartier
Lined with restaurants and in summer often filled with entertainers, Place Jacques Cartier is the centre of Montreal's Vieux Port (Old Port). In the distance is Nelson’s Column, built in 1810 to commemorate British Admiral Horatio Nelson. The Montréal column is 33 years older than its counterpart in London.
Notre-Dame Basilica from Bank of Montréal
Overlooking Place d'Armes, Notre-Dame Basilica invites comparisons with its namesake in Paris. The Montréal Notre-Dame is much younger than its counterpart in Paris. Built in 1829 in a neogothic style it is noted for its lavish and beautiful interior with stained glass windows, gold-tipped polychrome carvings, statues, paintings, and especially its lavish altarpiece. The interior is so lavish that we decided that a second visit was needed in order to take it all in. However, our plans were frustrated by a certain Celine Dione, who we discovered had booked Notre-Dame for the christening of her baby. Notre-Dame’s big bell, le Gros Bourdon, is the largest bell in North America. Click Tab 2 for a view of the altar of the Basilica.
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