Celebrating 150 Years of Church of the Gesù & Other Quebec Curios

The organ of the Church of the Gesù. Photo credit: Church of the Gesù. The organ of the Church of the Gesù. Photo credit: Church of the Gesù.

When one tends to think of religious institutions, one thinks of tradition and stability. More often we don’t realise that its long tradition is rooted in its history and its involvement in society, and that the simple look of a building can speak a lot about its time period and the people that would have attended its services. The Church of the Gesù is one such religious institution.

The Church of Gesù was built in 1865 by Patrick C. Keeley. The church is named after the same church in which the founder of the Jesuits, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, is buried. Following the traditional Baroque style architecture that was propagated by the Jesuits, the church has the vivid ceiling decorations and its general curved structure. It was designated as an historical monument in 1975 by the provincial government and a heritage building in 2012.

Right next door to the Church of Gesù is its Centre of creativity, whose ambition is to combine the spiritual with the artistic. The Centre of creativity was formerly Sainte-Marie College, the first Jesuit educational institution in Montreal that would educate the likes of poet Émile Nelligan, engineer Lucien L’Allier, and novelist Hubert Aquin. Its amphitheatre opened to the public in 1923 and has always been in constant usage since. Later closed because of a merger with UQÀM in 1969, the amphitheatre remains in constant usage. Crowned by La Presse as the place with the optimal acoustics in Montreal, the Centre of creativity welcomes over fifty thousand visitors a year for festivals such as Just for Laughs and Francofolies.

Interior of the Church of the Gesù, a Baroque-styled building that first opened in 1865.. Photo credit: Church of the Gesù.

Interior of the Church of the Gesù, a Baroque-styled building that first opened in 1865.. Photo credit: Church of the Gesù.

One hundred and fifty years is no small anniversary, and to celebrate, the institution has a series of events coming up this month. First up is an organ concert given by Régis Rousseau performing Yves Daoust’s “A concert for organ and band” on January 31. Then, in February, we have an evening with Ivy and Mykalle Bielinski starting at 7:30 pm on February 19. This particular presentation, 18$, is presented with the help of Montréal en lumière and consists in an original presentation of poetry and music entwined together. If you want a more permanent reminder of the celebrations, the institution has two interesting gifts for you: the first, a podcast called The Gesù from 1865 to today that you can take anywhere, thanks to a download onto your Android or iPhone. The podcast has images and music that immerses you into the culture and history in the church. Secondly, the Gesù will be publishing a commemorative book about the church later this month. Published with the help of the Archives of the Jesuits in Canada, Le Gesù: 150 ans d’une église will appear later this month.

Visit the church at 1202 de Bleury in the Quartier des Spectacles (metro Place-des-Arts) or visit their website at www.legesu.com

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