Project 365 – Day 43: Basilica of Saint Joseph’s Oratory

Feb 12 2012

Okay, I’m late posting the first daily update for the 365 Project I’m currently undertaking.

If you have been following along, you will know that up to now I’ve been posting a weekly update of all images taken during each week – not just the daily photos.

Since the weekly posts were getting a bit long, I decided to change to posting a daily update of images taken during each day. I had thought this would make the posts shorter and easier to digest (and write)…how wrong was that assumption, given the length of this post.

However, since my goal of this blog was to write and capture in images; places, culture and events in Montreal, I guess this post is close to what I had originally imagined.

Anyway, I digress…this post is a summary of my trip yesterday over the mountain (Mont-Royal) to the Basilica of Saint Joseph’s Oratory. For those interested, I have tried to include some rudimentary facts about the Oratory – but forgive me if I used incorrect terminology as religious knowledge isn’t a key strength of mine.

So, as Mitch Joel says at the start of his great weekly podcasts – Six Pixels of Separation – “Let’s get on with the show”…

Vigil lamps in the Votive Chapel, Saint Joseph's Oratory

Vigil lamps in the Votive Chapel, Saint Joseph’s Oratory

Saint Joseph’s Oratory is Canada’s largest church as well as being the world’s largest sanctuary dedicated to Saint Joseph –  the Virgin Mary’s husband and the patron Saint of Canada. In addition to trying to improve my photography skills with this 365 project and blog, I’m also discovering facts I was oblivious to :)

Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mont Royal is the realization of Saint Brother André. Saint Brother André was was a lay brother of the Holy Cross order who was devoted to Saint Joseph. In 1904 Brother André and friends constructed a small simple chapel (situated next to the present Basilica). Once Saint Brother André’s renown grew and word of miraculous healing spread abroad, throngs of pilgrims began to flock to the site and it soon became evident that the tiny chapel was too small.

In 1917 a new church was completed called the Crypt – named as such due to the fact its interior is formed by a series of vaults making the interior space appear to be hollowed out under flattened elliptical arches, reminiscent of ancient crypts. I had planned to photograph the Crypt for this post, but since there was Sunday mass at the time of my visit, it will have to wait for another day.

Construction began on the Basilica in 1924 and was based on plans by Montreal architects Dalbé Viau and Alphonse Venne. I find it sad that Saint Brother André didn’t see the completion of the magnificent dome, dying Jan 6th 1937 (aged 92) – the same year the French Benedictine Monk, Dom Paul Bellot, in collaboration with Montreal architect Lucien Parent, undertook the completion of the Basilica. The interior of the Basilica was completed in 1966 based on on designs by the Canadian architect Gérard Notebaert. The dome is in fact the third-largest of its kind in the world, measuring 39m in diameter and at 155m above street level is the highest point in Montreal.

The first collection of pictures below show the Oratory’s exterior. In addition to it being -28 and not much fun standing still taking photos outside, I hadn’t realized that in winter many of the exterior areas are closed – such as The Way of the Cross Gardens, the observation terrace and the wonderful spiral staircases that lead to the Basilica – so another visit is planned for warmer days.

Saint Joseph's Oratory of Mont Royal

Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mont Royal – front view

Okay, I admit the above picture is out of focus, hence I tried to give it a bit of a vintage look ;)

Saint Joseph's Oratory of Mont Royal

Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mont Royal

Saint Joseph's Oratory of Mont Royal - side view

Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mont Royal – side view

Relative to the rather grandiose Italian Renaissance inspired exterior, the inside of the Basilica provides a sense of purity in the refinement of its decorations and clean architectural lines.

Above the front entrance of the Basilica you will see the Beckerath organ pipes (built 1960).

Beckerath great organ

Beckerath great organ

Beckerath great organ towers over the front entrance

Beckerath great organ towers over the front entrance

Basilica Saint Joseph's Oratory Mont Royal

Basilica Saint Joseph’s Oratory Mont Royal – View from the Altar

The Basilica measures 105m in length, 65m across the transepts and  can seat up to 2,200 people, compared to the Crypt church which seats 1,000).

Basilica of Saint Joseph's Oratory

Basilica of Saint Joseph’s Oratory

View across the transept

View across the transept

View across the transept

View across the transept

Side entrance at rear of the Altar - Basilica of Saint Joseph's Oratory

Side entrance at rear of the Altar – Basilica of Saint Joseph’s Oratory

Left-hand side transept - Basilica of Saint Joseph's Oratory

Left-hand side transept – Basilica of Saint Joseph’s Oratory

The height from the floor to the top of the inner dome is 60 m with stained glass windows running around the base.

Saint Joseph's Oratory Basilica dome

Saint Joseph’s Oratory Basilica dome

Saint Joseph's Oratory Basilica dome

Saint Joseph’s Oratory Basilica dome

Saint Joseph's Oratory Basilica dome

Saint Joseph’s Oratory Basilica dome

Behind the altar is a magnificent sculpted metal facade which runs from floor to ceiling.

Rear of Saint Josephs Basilica altar

Rear of Saint Josephs Basilica altar

Rear of the Altar- Basilica Saint Joseph's Oratory

Rear of the Altar- Basilica Saint Joseph’s Oratory

Rear of the Altar- Basilica Saint Joseph's Oratory

Rear of the Altar- Basilica Saint Joseph’s Oratory

Rear of the Altar- Basilica Saint Joseph's Oratory

Rear of the Altar- Basilica Saint Joseph’s Oratory

Rear of the Altar- Basilica Saint Joseph's Oratory

Rear of the Altar- Basilica Saint Joseph’s Oratory

The orientation of the Basilica provides a wonderful display of colored light during the afternoon as the sun washes through the stained glass windows running along the side walls.

Stained glass windows

Stained glass windows

Stained glass windows

Stained glass windows

A natural light show

A natural light show

Saint Brother André was born Alfred Bessette on August 9 1845. Following a difficult childhood, (poor health and losing both his father and mother at an early age), Bessette became Brother André in 1870 and worked as a porter at Notre-Dame College, where he was to work for the next 40 years.

Statue of Saint André

Statue of Saint André

Soon, Brother André started to welcome the sick and broken-hearted. It was not long before many people were reporting that their prayers were being answered, however Brother André always denied he had any healing gifts. Albeit, in 1982, Pope John Paul II beatified Brother André and was formally declared a Saint on October 17 2010 by Pope Benedict XVI.

The vast number of crutches and canes lining the walls of the Votive Chapel are testament to the many people who believed in Saint Brother André’s healing powers.

The healing powers of Saint Brother André

The healing powers of Saint Brother André

The healing powers of Saint Brother André

The healing powers of Saint Brother André

On this vist to the Oratory, I discovered a small passage behind the Votive Chapel.

Corridor at the side of the Votive Chapel

Corridor at the side of the Votive Chapel

Saint Joseph’s Oratory has probably one of the most colorful elevators I have seen – particularly in a religious building.

Saint Joseph's Oratory colorful elevator

Saint Joseph’s Oratory colorful elevator

If you wish to view the images in a gallery, simply click on the first image and scroll through the images.

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Hopefully, not all the daily posts will be this long, but I hope you enjoyed the images and discovered a little about this wonderful Montreal attraction – I certainly enjoyed photographing it and discovering some of the history behind it.

Thanks for stopping by. Until next time.

– Martin

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2 Comments

  1. Nathalie Dumas September 25, 2012 at 1:47 pm #

    Hi Martin! Your photos of St. Joseph’s Oratory are just amazing. I never saw the Basilica interior on this way. Congratulations! Nathalie Dumas, community manager, Saint Joseph’s Oratory

    • Montreal in Pictures September 25, 2012 at 10:15 pm #

      Thank you Nathalie…your kind words mean a lot. Thanks for stopping by :-)

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  1. [...] Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal to take a few shots of the outside. I photographed the interior of the Oratory back in February. The ground was covered with snow then, so it  looked quite different [...]