By Dick Nieuwendyk – mtltimes.ca
In 1867, the Catholic parish of the Nativité-de-la-Sainte-Vierge-d’Hochelaga was founded. It was one of the first to separate from the Notre Dame parish when the Bishop of Montreal, Msgr. Ignace Bourget, asked Rome to divide up the territory controlled by the Sulpicians.
After having used a small chapel, the Chapelle du courant Sainte-Marie, later named the Nativité-de-la-Sainte-Vierge chapel, the parish decided to built a larger church for the growing French
Catholic community. Three landowners, Victor Hudon, Joseph Léveillé and Gilbert Provost, donated the land for the construction of the new church and work began in 1876, under supervision of Father Michaud, a cleric of St. Viateur.
The church was inaugurated on April 29, 1877. On the evening of April 19, 1921 fire broke out and the church almost burned to the ground – only the facade and the bell tower survived. The same year, a more imposing church was built on the same site. The new pastor, Fr. Georges-Marie LePailleur contracted Dalbé Viau and Alphonse Venne, the same architects who designed Saint Joseph’s Oratory, to perform the reconstruction. He requested it to be elevated to ensure that his church would have the necessary grandeur to become a cathedral, although it was never officially called that name. Its construction was completed in 1924.
The bell tower dates from 1906, and is over 80 meters tall, and contains five bells, of which the heaviest weighs about 2500 kg. The Gothic facade has three portals recalling the “Transfiguration of Jesus.” The interior decoration in the Romano-Byzantine style was entrusted to the firm of Alexander Carli and Nicholas Petrucci, the largest producers of religious Tuscan-oriented art in Canada. In addition to the stone and marble high altar, they also made both side altars, the balustrade of the choir, the Stations of the Cross in plaster coated stone, and the statues of the Twelve Apostles. The most spectacular work of Petrucci is the monumental frieze of The Apotheosis of the Virgin Mary, completed in 1927. It presents 27 paintings depicting the life of the
Blessed Virgin, religious institutions and the bishops of Montreal as well as the founders of the city. The frieze contains depictions of 320 people, life size, made of plaster or marble dust. It measures 2.14 meters high and spans the entire perimeter of the church, just below the ceiling. Devoted to the Virgin, fourteen magnificent stained glass windows, made in 1964-1965, are the work of Guido Nincheri.
The Church of the Nativité de la Vièrge d’Hochelaga is located at 1855 rue Dézery, borough of
Mercier–Hochelaga-Maisonneuve in Montreal.
Source: Memorable Montreal / Heritage Montreal / City of Montreal