During a talk that he gave in 1881 at the Windsor Hotel in Montréal, humorist Mark Twain said "This is the first time I was ever in a city where you couldn't throw a brick without breaking a church window."

Places of worship

Sacred splendours

Photo.Since the early days of New France in the 17th century, religion and public demonstrations of faith have been an essential aspect of Québec society.

The conversion of the Amerindians and the spread of the Catholic faith throughout America played an important role in the growth of this initially French and later British colony. Today, numerous places of worship stand as evidence of Québec’s centuries-old tradition and its religious and cultural heritage.

Sanctuaries and pilgrimage sites

Photo.St. Joseph’s Oratory, whose gigantic dome rises high above the northern slope of Mont Royal, stands on one of the loveliest sites in Montréal. For 60 years, visitors from the world over have gathered at the tomb of its founder, Brother André. The Oratory is noted for its remarkable architecture and works of art, its way of the cross set in an outdoor garden, and its organ and carillon concerts.

The worship of Saint Anne on Côte-de-Beaupré near Québec City dates back to the mid-17th century. The current Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré Basilica was inaugurated in 1926. Every year, hundreds of thousands of tourists and pilgrims visit this impressive Romanesque cathedral, with its five naves, magnificent mosaics and some 240 stained-glass windows.

The Notre-Dame-du-Cap Sanctuary near Trois-Rivières is another important shrine. Dedicated to the Virgin Mary, it has been a popular pilgrimage site for more than 100 years; the original chapel built in 1714 is still standing.

Great organs

Québec boasts a number of fine organs, which can be heard during religious services or at concerts or festivals. Notre-Dame Basilica of Montréal owns one of the most imposing, with 92 stops and 7000 pipes. One of the Basilica's towers, called La Persévérance, houses the great bell, weighing over 10 tonnes! In Québec City, the Anglican Cathedral of the Holy Trinity is home to one of the oldest organs, a small 18th century English instrument.

Worship and wonder

More info on this photo...Québec has many lovely churches, many of which have been classified as historic monuments and are an integral part of the urban and rural landscape. Some are huge and awe-inspiring, such as Notre-Dame Basilica, St. Patrick’s Basilica and Mary Queen of the World Cathedral in Montréal and Notre-Dame-de-Québec Basilica in Québec City.

Others are more modest, generally older, buildings. These include the lovely Notre-Dame-des-Victoires Church in Québec City, the Notre-Dame-de-Bonsecours Chapel in Old Montréal, the Cuthbert Chapel in Berthierville and the Indian chapel in Tadoussac.

A visit to the many small museums run by religious orders offers a key to understanding the early days of the French colony in North America. Some of the better known the Musée des Hospitalières de l’Hôtel-Dieu in Montréal.

Outside the big cities, monasteries and abbeys have long been peaceful havens of quiet contemplation, making them popular stops with visitors. Two of these are the Benedictine Abbey at Saint-Benoît-du-Lac on the shores of Lake Memphremagog, and the Abbaye Val Notre-Dame at Saint-Jean-de-Matha.

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