August 3, 2012

Montreal churches offer exhibitions, special events

By STEVEN HOWELL, Press-Republican

---- — MONTREAL — Religious-themed exhibitions and special events abound at many Montreal-area houses of worship and museums.


First up, Notre Dame Basilica in Old Montreal is currently hosting the International Organ Festival, which continues through mid-August.

The fest at 110 Notre Dame St. W. features organ recitals from 7 to 8 p.m. Sundays, Aug. 5, 12 and 19. This year’s event highlights the 75th anniversary of the death of two French composers and organists: Charles-Marie Widor, the organist at St. Sulpice Church in Paris; and Louis Vierne, the organist at Notre-Dame de Paris.

The remaining schedule includes symphonies and select works by Widor and Vierne. Tickets cost $5 a concert or $12 for any three concerts.

Every Friday through Oct. 5, visitors are also invited to take a stroll up to the balcony and have a seat at the on-site Casavant Freres organ. The visit, held at 2:30 p.m., is accompanied by rehearsals by organist Pierre Grandmaison. Admission costs $10 for adults and $8 for those 7 to 17 years old.

Admission to the basilica costs $5 for adults and $4 for those 7 to 17. Guided tours take place on the hour and half hour from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday and 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. Sundays.


Just down the block, Marguerite Bourgeoys Museum and Notre Dame de Bonsecours Chapel combine to tell the story of Marguerite Bourgeoys, one of Montreal’s first settlers who is also considered Montreal’s first teacher. 

The current chapel dates to 1771 and boasts an archaeological dig site, which reveals remnants of the original chapel built in 1675. This sacred place for prayer became a frequent stop for visiting port merchant mariners and is often called the Sailors’ Church; look no further than the carved replicas of sailing ships that hang from the vault.

The space at 400 St. Paul St. E. also hosts the Marguerite Bourgeoys Museum, which pays homage to the city’s first teacher in a permanent exhibition. The new temporary exhibit is “Drawing French America,” which displays the historical illustrations of Montrealer Francis Back. It continues through spring 2013. From the museum, you can also access a small observation tower for a great view of Old Montreal.

The chapel visit is free. The museum visit costs $10 for adults. Call (514) 282-8670 or visit to learn more.

Marguerite Bourgeoys is also highlighted at a visit to Maison St. Gabriel, Montreal’s oldest farm house, which dates to 1668. The site remains the home to the Sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame, which was led by Bourgeoys.

Here, Bourgeoys educated the filles du roy, or Kings Wards, young orphaned girls from Europe who ventured to New France to help offset the disproportionately high male population of the 17th century. The house remains in immaculate condition with everything put in its proper place.

An adjacent barn offers exhibition space with a new exhibit that pays tribute to shoes called “Two of a Kind.” It continues through Dec. 12.

The farm house is at 2146 Dublin Place in the Pointe St. Charles neighborhood. Admission costs $10 for adults. For more information, call (514) 935-8136 or visit


St. Joseph’s Oratory offers a number of summer events, including daily guided tours, a tranquil stroll through the outdoor Way of the Cross garden and a new exhibition titled “L’Oratoire Magazine: 100 Years of History.”

Music also fills the air at St. Joseph’s, with free 15-minute carillon recitals at noon and 3 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays; and at 12:15 p.m. Sundays. A 30-minute recital is held at 2:30 p.m. Sundays.

Carillon workshops are also held by appointment. The workshop fee is $3 a person or $50 for groups of 30 people or fewer. Reservations can be made through the Office of Visitor and Pilgrim Services at (514) 733-8211.

A free 45-minute recital by guest carillonists will be held at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 5. Free 30-minute organ recitals are also held in the basilica at 3:30 p.m. every Sunday. 

St. Joseph’s Oratory is at 3800 Queen Mary Road. For more information, visit

Steven Howell is the author of Montreal Essential Guide, a Sutro Media iPhone travel app available at