5 July 2011

Family vacation, part two

In continuance with the other vacation post, two posts done, I now show some more photographs and a few other musings about the third stop on our brief vacation, Montreal. 

We did a few different things in Montreal:  visited relatives, took a ride in a caleche, walked through the old city.  The old city is fascinating to me. Narrow streets, and a European feel.  It is full of architectural memories.  Throughout the old city you see the old walls and foundations of an even older city, ghosts of time past. 

And there are the churches, dozens of them, all within a short walk.  Unlike Toronto, time has been kinder to many of them.  They seem to have escaped the wholesale wreckovations that gutted so many of our churches.  They are also grander than ours.  A mediocre Montreal church could easily be in the top three most beautiful churches in Toronto.  Maybe top two.

But there is another side.  time has not been kind to many Montreal churches as they are closed down and leveled.  On our first night we headed downtown on the Metro, and close to our first stop on the Champs D'Armes, was a magnificent facade of an old Gothic church.  It must have been spectacular, but the facade was all that remained.  The rest was torn down to be turned into condos or  offices.

Still, they do have some amazing churches, and the most amazing of them all has to be the Basilique de Notre Dame.

Again, I am a lousy photographer, but here are some shots Puff and I took of the interior. 

Not far from Notre Dame was the cathedral, Marie Reine de la Monde (Mary, Queen of the World).  It was started by Archbishop Ignace Bourget  in what I can only call an "In Your Face!" move, for he built the Catholic cathedral in the Anglican part of town.  The fact that the cathedral was a one fourth copy of St Peter's in Rome could only reinforce his message, a signal as to who was in charge.

Inside, the cathedral has a sign welcoming visitors, but asks them not to move around during religious ceremonies.  The interior is hard to describe.  It feels cold, in a way.  I was afraid I might get the place dirty while I was there.

Also not far from Notre Dame was the English language church, the basilica of St Patrick, built for the famine Irish in 1847.  It is a magnificent example of Gothic style architecture, and absolutely beautiful.  I had seen it before, but it was worth a revisit.  I attended Mass there Sunday morning with the family.  The church was full of tourists, but this time the tourists had come for Mass, not just the church, although it is a gorgeous church.  At the end of Mass, after he dismissed the congregation, the priest said, "One last thing: to any American tourists, I hope you enjoy your stay in Montreal, and wish you all a happy Fourth of July."  A cheer went through the church.

Yet another church not far from Notre Dame was... Notre Dame, this time, Notre Dame de Bon Secours (Our Lady of Good Help).  It is on the site of the first Notre Dame de Bon Secours .  According to the website, the current chapel dates from 1771, and stands on the site of an earlier chapel founded by St Margarite de Bourgeoys.  The foundations of the earlier chapel have recently been found, and there is a museum beside the church. 

 Little boats hang from the ceiling.  They are gifts from sailors, who used to leave little model boats as offerings for a good journey, or in thanks following one. 
Bon Secours had a young woman dressed in old french style clothing greeting people at the door.  She was there to answer .questions of tourists, which brings us to a sad point. Most of the people who come to these churches do so as tourists with cameras.  At the Notre Dame basilica,  people paid five bucks each to go in and see the place.  It had hundreds of people milling around, taking photos and admiring the art.  I was grateful the Blessed Sacrament was kept in a side chapel, although many of the other side chapels had the sanctuary light lit.  I said a prayer of reparation, and together the family prayed before the tabernacle.  It was the only part of the church not crawling with tourists.  Many of the old churches and chapels in Montreal are closing from a lack of congregations.  People are willing to go to these churches, but not as worshippers. The churches that survive, including both Notre Dames, do so as tourist attractions.

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