A Tour of the Notre-Dame Basilica and Place d’Armes

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Fun fact: the Notre-Dame Basilica is the #1 thing to do in Montreal according to TripAdvisor. It’s also on the cover of the Lonely Planet book, but by no means does that mean the splendor was spoiled. All pictures, even the ones I took and am proud of, do not capture the grandeur of the Notre-Dame Basilica.

That morning, we bundled up as well as we could. We’d packed layers and layers of long underwear, sweaters, warm socks, thermals, hats, gloves, scarves, and those chemical hand warmers in an attempt to stave off the cold. This made the cold tolerable, but it also made it difficult to get any happy pictures. But in the battle versus the cold, victories are all that matter, looks be damned.

Place d’Armes

The Notre-Dame Basilica is on one side of the second oldest public space in Montreal, the Place d’Armes. In the middle of this public square is the Maisonneuve Monument depicting Paul de Chomedey, the founder of Montreal and easily framed with a Quebec flag flying in the background.

Paul de Chomedey at Place D'Armes

Paul de Chomedey at Place D'Armes

Opposite the statue (literally just turn your head around), you’ll see the Notre-Dame Basilica.

Notre-Dame Basilica Montreal Outside

While standing in line, I thought it’d be funny to call it the Notre Dame Basilica, as in the way people pronounce the university in Indiana (“Noter’dayme”) which drew Sarah’s ire but giggles from the Wisconsinites in line ahead of us.

To pass the time in line and ignore the cold that was taking blood away from my fingers, I snapped some different angle shots of the basilica. And I’m actually pretty happy with this one.

Notre-Dame Basilica Montreal Outside

Inside the Basilica

$6 in Canadian money (currently about $4.80 USD) later, we were inside. Then I saw perhaps one of the most impressive pieces of architecture I’ve ever seen.

Notre-Dame Basilica Montreal Inside

Not only is it absolutely cavernous inside, it’s also ornately and meticulously decorated. Every surface has a design, a print, a texture to it. In the front of the cathedral is, the shrine is lit in a manner that emphasizes the intricate detail. The ceiling above is covered in thousands of Fleur de Lis, and the use of shadows emphasized the details.

Notre-Dame Basilica Montreal Inside

Notre-Dame Basilica Montreal Inside

And who says stairwells have to be boring? Whoever created this thought “Yes, this is a perfect place to put a saint statue.” And they were right. It’s ingenious.

Notre-Dame Basilica Montreal Inside

Even the support pillars get in on the action.

Notre-Dame Basilica Montreal Inside

The last bit that surprised me was behind us when we entered. Above the back of the cathedral was a giant pipe organ bathed in a deep blue light.

Notre-Dame Basilica Montreal Inside

However, from an organizational standpoint, they could learn a thing or two from places like the Vatican. At one point, I heard a tour guide (we weren’t part of it as it wasn’t necessary) reference the number of tourists that do not respect its status as a place of worship, leading them to stop certain aspects of their practice. I’m not catholic, so I don’t know the context of what she said. But there were plenty of people who still had their hats on (which is a no-no in a church) and I can imagine in the summer people wearing tank tops and shorts (exposed skin is a no-no).

Yet there were no signs or policies displayed regarding respecting the church, and if there were, they certainly weren’t enforced. Places like the Vatican or Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral have signs and people who police dress code violations. You will be turned away if you don’t meet those requirements. The Notre-Dame Basilica didn’t, so it seemed unfair to passively complain about tourists not following the rules.

Notre-Dame Basilica Montreal Inside
Crowds of people milling around

But I didn’t let this distract me, and kept finding more and more details that I loved.

Notre-Dame Basilica Montreal Inside

As I’m writing this, I also wish that I’d written more down about the saints and stuff. Instead, I was taking pictures that I thought were cool. If you know more about these statues of saints, please add your $.02 in the comments.

Notre-Dame Basilica Montreal Inside

If you don’t, then you’ll have to live with commentary like this:

Below is the single more eerie statue in the whole cathedral.

Notre-Dame Basilica Montreal Inside

Place d’Armes and the Basilica at Night

Usually I try to keep this blog in chronological order, but today I’m going to skip ahead. I’m crazy proud of some night shots of the Basilica.

After dinner, I noticed that many of the buildings were very well lit. And since I had a shiny new camera that could handle low-light situations better, I decided to drag Sarah along with me for some night shots. It was bitter cold (around -15°F) and we’d been outside most of the day, but she stuck with me. She’s a trooper.

First, the Place d’Armes, and the Maisonneuve Monument.

Maisonneuve Monument Montreal at Night

But the real stunner was the Basilica. The lights highlighted the intricate detail that wasn’t visible during the day.

Notre-Dame Basilica Montreal at Night

Credit Sarah with this next shot. I didn’t notice there was a full moon out, but it gave the church a more spooky tone. One of the reasons I like travelling with her is that she has an eye for these sorts of pictures but not always the ability to execute them. We make a good team like that.

Notre-Dame Basilica Montreal at Night

Notre-Dame Basilica Montreal at Night

After the basilica, we continued our walking tour of Montreal, including seeing Montreal City Hall, Château Ramezay, and the Old Port.

11 Comments

  1. Wow what a stunning picture of the interior of the church!! It’s definitely been on my radar for a while now and I realllllly want to see it! Happy New Year! #FarawayFiles

  2. Your night photos are especially impressive. I’ve been to Montreal once but I missed these sights. The cathedral architecture is truly stunning.

    1. Author

      It was one of the most impressive things on our trip. At night, you could really see the detail.

  3. Absolutely stunning photos, especially of the ones at night time. I’m so impressed you were able to capture them so well in – 15 temps. Whenever I try to take photos in the bitter cold, so many come out blurry or with a slight blur because my hands are trembling. What a beautiful basilica and thanks for linking up with #farawayfiles

    1. Author

      Heh, we had to go inside a lot to warm up. Otherwise, layers upon layers of clothing.

      All in all, we’re reconsidering taking a winter trip to a cold-weather climate again.

  4. What a beautiful cathedral. I’d love to know how cold it really was – you make it look as if there are sub-zero temperatures out there. Thanks for sharing this with us on #FarawayFiles

    1. Author

      It was below zero most days. It only went above 0°F on our last day there. Otherwise, highs were -10°F.

  5. Beautiful Pictures! I was supposed to see this beautiful structure in September but sadly the Hurricane in Texas ruined our plans :-/ I really hope we can eventually go to see it! It looks so beautiful #flyawayfriday

    1. Author

      Just don’t go in the winter!
      Thanks for stopping by!

  6. The Basilica takes my breath away just by seeing photos! I can’t even imagine standing there, I probably would pass out haha! Thanks for joining Fly Away Friday, hope to see you tomorrow for the 50th one – exciting things happening! xo

  7. Great photos! I loved this cathedral and you have captured the beauty and intricacies beautifully. Thanks for coming to Fly Away Friday! Hope to see you tomorrow for our 50th link up!

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