Visiting Cathedrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde, Montreal

An impressive building smack in the middle of Downtown Montreal, Mary, Queen of the World is a scale replica of St. Peter’s Basilica – yes, the one in Rome. I personally had to visit just out of sheer curiosity. Fewer tourists find this church than the Notre-Dame Basilica, so don’t let the lack of signage and the enormous front doors intimidate you. Inside you’ll find a trove of local historic paintings depicting the history of the Catholic church in Montreal, a replica of Bernini’s famed Baldachin, and intricate, soaring domes.

Learn more about Montreal's amazing churches here

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Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral (Cathedrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde)

CORNER OF RENE-LEVESQUE BLVD AND MANSFIELD STREET

HOURS: MONDAY TO FRIDAY, 7 A.M. TO 6 P.M.;

SATURDAY, 7:30 A.M. TO 6 P.M.;

SUNDAY, 8:30 A.M. TO 6 P.M.

HOURS MAY VARY IN WINTER. NOT OPEN TO VISITORS DURING SERVICE HOURS.

RATE: FREE

 

I visited St. Peter's Basilica in Rome nearly a decade ago, and the experience has stayed with me since.  Two summers ago my fiance and I visited Rome, and I was eager to introduce him to the same experience - as luck would have it, of course, the Basilica was closed during our visit! And so, when I noticed this unique cathedral in my Montreal guidebook, I marked it immediately - I figured a replica would at least somewhat approximate the experience for my fiance. 

Walking inside this cathedral, I immediately felt overwhelmed - in a good way. This place was massive. The hulking concrete exterior belied the soaring, airy ceiling inside. The entire cathedral was somewhat sepia-hued, due to the muted lighting of rather old chandeliers and the unique stone walls. As we entered, a service was ending, and we respectfully stood the side watching members conclude their morning worship. I realized, not for the first time, how little I knew about Catholic services. Watching the congregation speak, bow, and motion in unison brings a sense of performance to the somber-sounding rituals. 

As the service ended, worshipers and visitors alike wandered through the cavernous cathedral to visit the candle altars for the various saints tucked into the sides and corners. As a non-Catholic, I find the ritual of candle-lighting both mysterious and intimate, and I found myself wondering what drew different members to different saints. 

Ultimately, Mary, Queen of the World felt nothing like St. Peter's Basilica - and yet, there were similarities. Mary was less ornate that St. Peter's, which allowed the true nature of this labor-of-love building to shine through. Mary was certainly less crowded, less shrouded in reverence and history - creating the mildly disjunctive feeling that were simply visiting your neighborhood church, which also happened to be a gigantic work of architectural mastery. Did a visit to Mary replicate the St Peter's experience? Certainly not - but the Mary, Queen of the World experience was no less wonderous or deserving.