Mary Queen of the World Cathedral

1085 Rue de la Cathédrale, Montréal, QC H3B 2V3, Canada

The choice of whether to build a church following a Gothic Revival or neoclassical design involved more than just aesthetics in 19th-century Québec. The former tended to be associated with Protestantism, and so the construction of the Catholic Basilica of Notre-Dame in that style raised eyebrows. When the St-Jacques Cathedral was destroyed by fire in 1852, the architects who designed a new church for the site, the Mary Queen of the World Cathedral, opted for the neoclassical style that was more typical of Catholic buildings. Constructed from 1874 to 1895, it is a quarter-scale version of St. Peter’s in Rome, complete with coffered vaults and twisting columns in imitation of those of Lorenzo Bernini’s baldachin in the Eternal City. The building’s green copper dome makes a statement, too, looming as it does over the largely Protestant neighborhood. The stucco crucifix by sculptor Philippe Hébert is one of most important works of art in the church.

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Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral

If you have visited Rome, Montréal’s cathedral (Basilique-Cathédrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde et Saint-Jacques-le-Majeur) may look familiar. It’s a reproduction, on a smaller scale, of St. Peter’s Basilica. In a city where relations between francophone (largely Roman Catholic) and anglophone (largely Protestant) communities have alternated between coexistence and tense hostility, the design of the cathedral made a statement. It was an intentional rejection of the Gothic style favored by the Anglican Church at the time (construction began in 1870, and it was consecrated in 1894). Its location, on the predominantly anglophone west side of Montréal, was also a provocative gesture. In addition to its stunning architecture and statuary, the cathedral is home to a notable series of paintings illustrating the history of religious orders in Québec.

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