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Church of Notre Dame in Montreal

Church of Notre Dame in Montreal: An Architectural History

Franklin Toker
Copyright Date: 1991
Pages: 209
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  • Book Info
    Church of Notre Dame in Montreal
    Book Description:

    In the extensive new preface, Toker examines the approach he took in writing The Church of Notre-Dame in Montreal and reflects on the implications of what has been discovered since the book was first published in 1970.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-8504-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Plates
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Preface to the Second Edition: Notre-Dame a Generation Later
    (pp. xv-xxii)
  5. Preface to the First Edition
    (pp. xxiii-xxvi)
  6. CHAPTER I Notre-Dame de Montréal
    (pp. 1-4)

    Visitors to montreal generally walk through the historic quarter of Old Montreal. There they find a variety of buildings ranging in style from Baroque to modern, crowded into a shallow rectangle of one hundred acres along the St. Lawrence River (Plates1, 2). Although most of the architecture dates only from the nineteenth century, the whole district takes on an ancient air because of the uniform use of limestone. Erected side by side on narrow streets over a period of three hundred years, these warehouses, convents, and offices coalesce into three-story walls of grey stone. The layout of the streets,...

  7. CHAPTER II Notre-Dame and Saint-Sulpice
    (pp. 5-14)

    The present church of Notre-Dame is a relative newcomer to Place d’Armes. Twice as old is the Séminaire de Saint-Sulpice, one hundred and twenty feet to the south (Plate26). A three-story fieldstone building with acorps de logis of1687 and projecting wings of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Seminary is the Canadian headquarters of the Messieurs de Saint- Sulpice. The Sulpicians, or Gentlemen of Saint-Sulpice, constitute a society of secular priests. They take no vows to the order, nor are they bound to remain in the community; they in effect live together to fulfil a common purpose...

  8. CHAPTER III Rebuilding Notre-Dame
    (pp. 15-22)

    With the realization that the incipient cathedral of Saint-Jacques would end their exclusive tenure of religious authority in Montreal, the Sulpicians and the wardens of Notre-Dame sought to regain lost ground. Since the followers of Auxiliary Bishop Lartigue exploited the fact that the only parish church in town was old, cramped, and poorly located, it seemed to the wardens that they had three possible courses of action: old Notre-Dame could be destroyed and a new church built; the old church could be retained but new branch churches built; or the old parish boundaries could be redrawn and many new parishes...

  9. CHAPTER IV James O’Donnell
    (pp. 23-28)

    The building committee insisted that two basic requirements be met in the construction of Notre-Dame. The church must be big enough to seat eight to nine thousand people, and it must look magnificent. And although James O’Donnell had been selected somewhat by chance, he seemed to be the architect whose training and style of design could satisfy these requirements.

    The career of O’Donnell spanned the Atlantic. He was born in 1774 as the only son of a fairly prosperous, land-owning family in County Wexford, Ireland. His family, who had emigrated from County Donegal in the north, had attained a certain...

  10. CHAPTER V The Design of Notre-Dame
    (pp. 29-42)

    O’donnell gave some thought to the design of Notre-Dame even before coming to Montreal.¹ He arrived from New York on October 3, 1823, and just six days later described his preliminary plans to the wardens.* After ten days spent in surveying the site of the church, examining stone in the quarries, and discussing the project with LaRocque and Quesnel, O’Donnell drew up detailed sketches of the interior and exterior (Plate9) .² The sketches were submitted to the building committee on October 14, and its minutes show they were formally accepted three days later. After seventy-three years of discussion of...

  11. CHAPTER VI Construction and Decoration
    (pp. 43-52)

    The building of notre-dame passed through five stages: the planning and clearance of the site, and the laying of the foundation in 1823 and 1824; erection of the exterior walls in 1825 and 1826; erection of the interior structure in 1827; completion of the ceiling and part of the woodwork in 1828; and the painting and decoration in 1829.

    O’Donnell directed the project both as architect and superintendent of construction. He had four chief foremen: a master stonecutter, John Redpath; a master mason, Gabriel Lamontagne; a master carpenter, Daniel Bent, replaced by Mr. Thompson and later by Jacob Cox; and...

  12. CHAPTER VII Critical Appraisal
    (pp. 53-64)

    Since notre-dame was opened for worship in 1829, it has been the subject of a vast amount of critical analysis. This analysis has been of two types. The first, which began in the 1830’s and which still can be read today, concerned itself primarily with the design and function of the church. The second and more popular type began in the 1860’s, but became quite common only in the twentieth century. This analysis concentrates on the style of Notre-Dame and examines above all the relevance of the Gothic Revival to French Canada. The first type of reaction will be discussed...

  13. CHAPTER VIII Victor Bourgeau and Notre-Dame
    (pp. 65-72)

    As one sees it today, the church of Notre-Dame is the creation of two architects, James O’Donnell and Victor Bourgeau. For the average visitor the facade, appearing exactly as O’Donnell conceived it in 1824, is far less impressive than the interior, which was redecorated in the 1870’s by Bourgeau. This redecoration has a history which is in many ways similar to the history of the original construction. First there were complaints of the inadequacy of the interior, followed by pressure on the wardens to improve conditions; eventually, a general plan of action was determined, and an architect selected. But there...

  14. CHAPTER IX Notre-Dame as a French-Canadian Church
    (pp. 73-82)

    The late monseigneur olivier matjrault described Notre-Dame in 1929 as “a truly national monument, where the religious and patriotic sentiment of French Canadians expresses itself with incomparable brilliance.”¹ More common today is the idea that Notre-Dame is incongruous or totally alien to the spirit of Quebec. This opinion was originally formulated by the two scholars who led the revival of interest in Quebec architecture. In 1947 Ramsay Traquair wrote inThe Old Architecture of Quebec (p. 2):“In 1824 Notre-Dame de Montréal was rebuilt in a bastard American Gothic. This was the first great blow to the old French tradition;...

  15. PLATES
    (pp. None)
  16. APPENDIX A Letter from James O’Donnell to François-Antoine LaRocque
    (pp. 83-86)
  17. APPENDIX B Contract between the Wardens of Notre-Dame and James O’Donnell
    (pp. 87-90)
  18. APPENDIX C Art in Notre-Dame
    (pp. 91-94)
  19. APPENDIX D Early Iconography of Notre-Dame
    (pp. 95-96)
  20. Notes
    (pp. 97-114)
    (pp. 115-120)
  22. Index
    (pp. 121-124)