Old Montreal (http://www.vieux.montreal.qc.ca/eng/accueila.htm) is remarkable for its old world heritage but with close proximity to a new world of discovery and culture because of the IMAX theatre, the Montréal Science Centre, and the Cirque du Soleil tents.
On my last day in Montreal, I walked the rain-slicked cobblestones of Rue Saint Paul on a cool, breezy night. I occasionally detected the distant clip-clop sound of hooves, indicating the slow pace of a horse-drawn calèche carrying passengers immersed in the atmosphere of the old world.
The Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel houses the Marguerite-Bourgeoys Museum which celebrates the city’s first teacher and one of its founders (http://www.marguerite-bourgeoys.com/en/index.asp).
The other side of Notre-Dame-de-Bon Secours Chapel has a large statue of the Virgin, whose outstretched arms brings solace to sailors. Also called the Sailors’ Church, this chapel has been a pilgrimage site since the 19th century for sailors who gave thanks to the Virgin for safe voyages at sea.
The statue of the Virgin on the Sailors’ Church is referenced in the lyrics of Leonard Cohen’s song Suzanne. The song is named after Suzanne Verdal who lived near the harbour in Old Montreal in the 1960s. The statue faces the harbour, and it faces east so it catches the rising sun as indicated in the lyrics:
Now Suzanne takes your hand
And she leads you to the river
She is wearing rags and feathers
From Salvation Army counters
And the sun pours down like honey
On our lady of the harbour
And she shows you where to look
Among the garbage and the flowers
There are heroes in the seaweed
There are children in the morning
They are leaning out for love
And they will lean that way forever
While Suzanne holds the mirror
And you want to travel with her
And you want to travel blind
And you know that you can trust her
For she’s touched your perfect body with her mind.
Just down the street from the Palais des Congrès, the site of CLA 2009, one can catch a glimpse of the edge of Old Montreal and Notre Dame Basilica whose Gothic Revival architecture is one of Montreal’s greatest spectacles. The building was raised to the status of a basilica from a church by Pope John Paul II during a visit in 1982. The basilica was the site of the wedding of Celine Dion and the funerals for Pierre Trudeau and Maurice “Rocket” Richard.
Notre Dame Basilica faces Place d’Armes Square, with its statue of Montreal’s founder Paul de Chomedey de Maissoneuve. In 1643, a flood threatened the new community (called Ville-Marie) and after it was saved, Maissoneuve gave thanks to the Virgin by fulfilling a vow and carrying a cross to the top of Mount Royal. An illuminated version of the cross has stood on Mount Royal since 1924. The current cross on Mount Royal was outfitted with LED lights in 2009, which allows it to change colours without changing the bulbs.
Attached to Notre Dame Basilica is Sacré-Coeur Chapel. It was destroyed by arson in 1978, and rebuilt with some modern touches such as the immense bronze altarpiece. The sculpture represents the journey of humankind toward God, as people pass through the three arches representing stages in life to reach the top, with the head of Jesus depicted along with a bird representing the Holy Spirit and the sun representing God.