This Week in History


The Marie-Reine-Du-Monde Cathedral-Basilica

For the week of Monday March 25, 2002

The Marie-Reine-du-Monde Cathedral-Basilica in Montréal was officially opened on March 25, 1894. Msgr. Ignace Bourget (1799-1885), the second bishop of Montréal, wanted the church's construction, inspired by St. Peter's Cathedral in Rome, to express his diocese's attachment to the values of Catholicism and the papacy.

Front and side of Marie-Reine-du-Monde Cathedral-Basilica

Front and side of Marie-Reine-du-Monde

© Parks Canada / N. Clerk

In July 1852, a devastating fire destroyed Saint-Jacques Church, which was at that time the cathedral of the Diocese of Montréal. Msgr. Bourget quickly took steps to replace the church. He wanted to make his new cathedral a monument with great symbolic value. First, he chose a site in the west end of the city in order to establish a Catholic presence in this primarily Protestant neighbourhood. He also decided that the largest church in his diocese would be a reduced-scale replica of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. The use of this prestigious basilica, closely linked to the papacy and the Church, as a model is an eloquent testimony to Msgr. Bourget's personal convictions about Ultramontanism, a doctrine that supports the supremacy of Church over State and the absolute authority of the Pope.

Baldachin, Marie-Reine-du-Monde Cathedral-Basilica

Baldachin, Marie-Reine-du-Monde

© Parks Canada / N. Clerk

In 1856, Msgr. Bourget asked the architect Victor Bourgeau to travel to Rome to draw up simplified plans of the famous basilica. Upon his return, Bourgeau tried to convince the bishop that St. Peter's Basilica could not be copied. However, Msgr. Bourget did not waver. Then, in 1868, he sent Fr. Joseph Michaud, a priest with a background in architecture, to the basilica in Rome to build a scale model. Construction on the church finally began in 1870, using the plans prepared by Victor Bourgeau and Fr. Joseph Michaud; construction spanned 24 years. The cathedral was finally blessed in 1894 by Msgr. Fabre. Through its general form, arrangement of its volumes, interior layout, majestic cupola and magnificent baldachin, the Marie-Reine-du-Monde Cathedral-Basilica evokes, on a simpler scale, St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.

This church still lies in the heart of downtown Montréal. Today it remains a reminder of the presence of Catholicism in this city, as the man behind its construction, Msgr. Ignace Bourget, had wanted. The Marie-Reine-du-Monde Cathedral-Basilica was designated a place of national historic significance in 1999.

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