Christ Church Cathedral

A spiritual oasis in the heart of Montreal : Une oasis spirituelle au coeur de Montréal

  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size
Home Our History Guided Tour

Guided Tour


See also Canada's Digital Collections: the Religious Heritage website's pages about the Cathedral - it contains an additional history and very fine photos of the exterior, interior and stained glass windows.

Christ Church Cathedral, as is usual with Gothic churches, is built in the form of a cross, with the altar at the East end. The words "East", "West" etc. are used here in their ecclesiastical sense; they do not correspond to the actual compass directions. The longest section of the East-West part of the cross is called the nave, the shorter, the chancel, at the end of which is the sanctuary containing the altar. The arms of the cross are the north and south (left and right) transepts.







We begin our walking tour at the West Door, i.e. the main door of the Cathedral. Upon entering, you are in the nave. The Gothic arches, supported by pillars, are crowned with carvings of all the different types of foliage to be found on Mount Royal at the time the church was built.


At the four corners of the nave are sculptured heads representing the four Evangelists, and along the walls s are stained glass windows and various memorial plaques donated to the Cathedral. Two other plaques contain the lists of the Deans of the Cathedral and the Bishops of the Diocese. The carved angels which abound in every part of the Chapter House are a curious feature. It is said that Bishop Fulford, the first Bishop of Montreal, was anxious to emphasize by their presence that the worship on earth is always offered in association with that of the whole company of heaven.

As you walk up the centre aisle of the church towards the altar, you will see the pulpit ( right ) on the left handpulpitside of the chancel steps. The pulpit is used by those who preach to the congregation. When the Cathedral was first built, the pulpit was placed in the centre of the chancel steps, thus blocking the already narrow view of the sanctuary and altar. It was then moved down to the left side of the nave near the third pillar, and finally from there to its present position. The script around the top of the pulpit reads : "Go ye into the world and preach the Gospel". The figure in the front is that of Saint Paul.



cocross Just above and to the left of the pulpit, on the wall, is the Coventry Cross ( left ), presented to the Cathedral in 1953 by the Provost of Coventry Cathedral in England. It is made of nails taken from the ruins of Old Coventry Cathedral, destroyed by bombing in 1940.








Now walk up the chancel steps through the chancel to the high altar which, with its reredos, is the focal point of the church. The reredos behind the altar was a late addition to the church, dedicated at the end of World War I as a memorial to those who fell in the War. Coventry Cathedral Familiar scenes from the life of our Lord are in the lower part of the stone screen. Above them (left to right) stand St. George, St. Martin of Tours (on whose day the 1918 Armistice was signed), St. Lawrence (on whose day Jacques Cartier entered the river which he named after the saint), Christ the King, St. John Baptist (patron saint of Quebec and Canada), St. Nicholas of Myra (patron of sailors) and finally St. Michael the Archangel (patron of airmen). The Altar frontals are particularly beautiful examples of the devoted handiwork of Miss M.E. Evans, who worked as diocesan embroiderer for many years. The are four of them, in colours representing the seasons of the church year. The crosses on the frontals are reproductions of various Celtic and Gothic types.

On your left as you turn around from the altar, and face the West Door, is the Bishop's throne or 'cathedra' (from which the mother church of a diocese gets its name). The cloth lining the back of the throne is made of material used to decorate Westminster Abbey for the coronation of King George VI.


As you walk down the chancel from the sanctuary, you will notice first of all on your right the Canons' Stalls, reserved for the Cannons of the Cathedral who make up the Cathedral Chapter - the chairman of which is the Dean of Montreal. The offices of Mattins and Evening Prayer are said daily from the Canons' Stalls. Above the Choir Stalls, on your left, you will see an eighteenth century copy of Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper (below). It was formerly above the altar in the old Cathedral on Notre-Dame Street. In December 1856, when the old Cathedral burned down, a soldier of the nearby garrison jumped onto the altar and cut the painting from its frame with his sword. It thus survived the fire and has a historic and sentimental value.


After passing the first arch you stand directly underneath the spire and bell tower of the Cathedral. The church is patterned on St. Mary Snettisham Parish Church in Norfolk, England. Its architectural sister church is the Cathedral in Fredericton, New Brunswick. The spire was formerly of stone, but in 1927 it had to be removed because its weight was causing the building to settle rapidly. Thirteen years later it was replaced by aluminium plates which were moulded to simulate stone. The space under the spire is called the crossing. On Sundays an altar is placed here for the celebration of Eucharist.



As you leave the Chancel, turn right to the north transept where the Chapel of St. John of Jerusalem is located. The chapel, in which Eucharist is celebrated daily is the only chapel in Canada of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem who are responsible for the modern St. John's Ambulance Corps.


From the Chapel, walk across the church into the baptistry. At the font children and adults are baptised in the sacrament of entry into the Christian community.

As you leave the baptistry and move down the back of the church you will see on your left, at the rear, the Children's Chapel. The tapestry is by Ottilie Fodor, a well-known artist from the Eastern Townships. At Christmas and Easter it is the scene of the Creche and the Easter Garden respectively.


The organ Above the West Door is the new Choir Gallery, built in 1980, with the third Christ Church Organ, aorgmechanical-action instrument completed by Karl Wilhelm in 1981 ( right ). During 1992 a 32 ft. reed stop was added to the organ. The first organ in the old Christ Church was a gift from King George III. It is mentioned in Thackeray's novel "The Newcomes". A second organ was built in 1950 as a memorial to the men and women who died in World War II.

For visitors, a printed Guided Tour leaflet ("A Walking Tour") is available, in both English and French, inside the Cathedral.

Last Updated on Friday, 03 April 2009 15:47