Mark Twain, when visiting Montréal, wrote: "this is the first time I was ever in a city where you couldn't throw a brick without breaking a church window." The general vibe here is no longer very religious, though. Montréal, in fact, has one of the lowest church-attendance rates in North America.
But the city's old nickname--"la ville aux cent clochers (the city of a hundred steeples)"--is still appropriate. Some two million visitors a year come to St. Joseph's Oratory on the slopes of Mont-Royal in the middle of the city. The immense basilica, with one of the largest domes in the world, continues to draw pilgrims. The central stairway leading up the hill is closed to the general public--as the 'RÉSERVÉ' sign says, it's only open for 'pilgrims climbing up on their knees.'