Saint Joseph's OratoryThe shrine's story began in 1904, when Brother ANDRÉ of the Congregation of the Holy Cross, supported by a few friends, had the first small chapel constructed on Mount Royal in honour of Saint Joseph. It became so crowded that the crypt, a church with capacity for 1000 people, was built in 1917. Work on the basilica, in Italian Renaissance style, began in 1924 and was completed in 1967. Through the years, many architects participated in the initial project's expansion. Added to the basic work of the first architects, Dalbé Viau and Alphonse Venne, were contributions by Lucien Parent, Gérard Notebaert, and Dom Paul Bellot, who designed the oratory's dome in 1937.
This renowned architectural grouping was enhanced by a system of lateral lighting at the highest point in one of its churches, with a programmable inner ring as its centrepiece. This gives a new perspective to the pilgrims who come to discover the altar, the crucifix and the 12 wooden apostles created by the French master Henri Charlier, the Way of the Cross by sculptor Roger de Villiers, and Marius Plamondon's stained glass windows depicting Saint Joseph in Canadian history.
The great organ was made by Rudolph von Beckerath and has 5811 pipes divided into 78 stops. The prestigious carillon with 56 bronze bells was donated to the oratory in 1954.
Celebrating its centenary in 2004, Saint Joseph's Oratory appears to be a focal point for meeting and communicating. It remains the most important church in the world dedicated to Saint Joseph, and is the highest and most visible building in Montréal. With its geographic location and imposing architecture, it attracts people of all religious affiliations. Over 2 million visitors and pilgrims go to the oratory every year - about 75 per cent of them women - even though men and women make up an equal percentage of tourists, and more than 40 per cent of visitors are from diverse cultural communities. In addition to religious services, a variety of cultural activities take place at Saint Joseph's Oratory, whose main church, the basilica, has a seating capacity of 3000.
See also RELIGIOUS BUILDING.