The twin-towered, neo-Gothic Basilique Notre-Dame, the cathedral of the Catholic faithful since 1829, looms over Place d’Armes. Its architect, the Protestant Irish-American James O’Donnell, was so inspired by his creation that he converted to Catholicism in order to be buried under the church. The western tower, named Temperance, holds the ten-tonne Jean-Baptiste bell, whose booming could once be heard 25km away. The breathtaking gilt and sky-blue interior, flooded with light from three rose windows unusually set in the ceiling, and flickering with multicoloured votive candles, was designed by Montréal architect Victor Bourgeau. Most notable of the detailed furnishings are Louis-Philippe Hébert’s fine wooden carvings of the prophets on the pulpit and the awe-inspiring main altar by French sculptor Bouriché. Imported from Limoges in France, the stained-glass windows depict the founding of Ville-Marie. Behind the main altar is the Chapelle Sacré-Coeur, destroyed by a serious fire in 1978 but rebuilt with an impressive modern bronze reredos by Charles Daudelin. Time your visit for the 35-minute “And then there was light” son et lumière (sound and light) show, offering the chance to see the architectural details artfully lit up.
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