The Mini Vatican Basilica & Other Quebec Curios

Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral, as seen on boulevard René Lévesque ouest. Photo: T. A. Wellington. Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral, as seen on boulevard René Lévesque ouest. Photo: T. A. Wellington.

In the heart of Ville-Marie lies a very prominent, very St. Peter’s Basilica-looking church at the intersection of boulevard René Lévesque and rue de la Cathédrale. Built in two phases taking up much of the latter part of the nineteenth century, while Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral at first glance looks like a copy of the Vatican’s most famous church, it has its own architectural merits that make it Montreal’s own.

Construction of Mary, Queen of the World happened in two phases: from 1870 to 1878 and from 1885 to 1894. The only thing that seemed to stop construction were two very worldly problems: money and illness. The financial crisis of 1875-1876 halted construction for a while and on top of that, the man who had first commissioned the basilica, Bishop Ignace Bourget, resigned midst poor health during construction, to which Édouard-Charles Fabre answered the call and became the new Archbishop of Montreal. One cannot keep a good man down, however, and Mgr Bourget, despite his ill health, travelled to 150 parishes to collect money to build the basilica. Funds were increased after a bazaar in 1886 which received a grand total of twenty-seven thousand dollars. Finally consecrated in 1894, its name was the same name of the church whose replacement it was supposed to be, but in English: Saint James Cathedral. However, on a request from Cardinal Paul-Émile Léger, it was renamed Mary, Queen of the World by Pope Pius XII.

The cathedral’s layout is that of a cross and is built in the Baroque Revival architectural style. Instead of replicating St. Peter’s Basilica exactly, those statues on top of the cathedral are not the twelve apostles, but statues that were donated by local Catholic parishes. Each statue was made by the same sculptor, Olindo Gratton, and represent Anthony of Padua, Vincent de Paul, Saint Hyacinth, Thomas Aquinas, Saint Paul, Saint John, Saint James (the cathedral’s initial namesake), Saint Joseph, Saint John the Baptist, Saint Patrick, Saint Ignatius of Antioch, Saint Charles Borromeo, and Francis of Assisi. The interior of the cathedral also contains paintings of historical Montreal events involving Marguerite Bourgeoys and other important historical figures such as Samuel de Champlain and Jean de Brébeuf.

Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral is the seat of the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Montreal. It was classified as a National Historic Site of Canada in 2000.

Visit Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral in person at 1085 rue de la Cathédrale, or take a virtual tour here.