St. Patrick Church
St. Patrick’s Church of Montreal is known for its historic links to the Irish Catholic community.
English-speaking Catholics first assembled in Montreal at the Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours church in Old Montreal, however their numbers were swelled by the massive arrival of Irish immigrants around 1817 and by 1841 they numbered 6,500, and could no longer be accommodated. Thus the site of Saint Patrick's Church was purchased, and construction began in September 1843, when seven cornerstones were laid, making this church the oldest English-speaking Roman Catholic Church in Montreal.
The gothic revival building was designed by P. L. Morin and Father Felix Martin, is 71 meters long and 32 meters wide; the steeple reaches a height of 69 meters. It is considered one of the most magnificent examples of its style in Canada.
The first mass was celebrated in the church on St. Patrick's Day, March 17, 1847. In 1850 Samuel Russell Warren built the church's first organ.
The Quebec government designated the church a historic monument on December 10, 1985. It has also been designated a National Historic Site of Canada, in 1996.
On St. Patrick's Day, March 17, 1989, the church was promoted to the title of minor basilica by Pope John Paul II, upon request by Paul Grégoire, cardinal archbishop of Montreal.
The interior of the church is ornamented with motifs that combine a French fleur de lys and Irish shamrocks; more stunningly are the large 25 m columns, all carved from the same white oak and encased in marble. It features three altars, four rosette stained-glass windows, designed by New York artist Alex S. Locke, and features 150 oil paintings of saints. St. Patrick's Basilica has a Casavant Frères pipe organ, built in 1895, which is now completely electropneumatic.
Two additions to the decorations have been made since St. Patrick's completion, first in 1922 by Guido Nincheri and again in 1931 by Victor Marion. "The large lamp hanging in the sanctuary is unique in North America. Weighing 1800 pounds, it was installed in 1896. Each of the six angels on the pedestal stands 2 m high.
The church is known for "St. Patrick's Chimes," its ten bells, of which the oldest, "Charlotte," was cast in 1774 and used in the previous church of Notre-Dame. The organ was installed in 1852 and has been successively rebuilt several times. In 1972, it was combined with the organ of St. Antony's Church, also of Montreal, which had been demolished.
St. Patrick's has undergone four major restorations since its construction, the most recent of which cost $5 million through donations from citizens, corporations and the Quebec Government.
Inside the church are memorials to two famous parishioners: Thomas D'Arcy McGee, a statesman and Father of Canadian Confederation who was assassinated in 1868 in Ottawa. In the rear of the church, a plaque commemorates the French Canadian poet Émile Nelligan's baptism in the church Christmas Day 1879.
The church is located at 460 René Lévesque Boulevard West, in downtown Montreal, at the corner of Saint-Alexandre Street (Square-Victoria or Place-des-Arts metro stations).
St. Patrick's Church. Photo : © V. Petrovskiy
St. Patrick's Nef. Photo : V. Petrovskiy