Five-year, $63-million renovation planned for Montreal's St. Joseph Oratory

IMAGE: CNS/Bob Mullen

By Philippe Vaillancourt

(CNS) — Canada’s most visited Catholic shrine is about to get a facelift.

Joseph Oratory, managed by the Congregation of the Holy Cross, will see $80
million ($63 million U.S.) in upgrades and new installations in a five-year project set to begin
in 2017.

project includes a 360-degree observatory that will allow visitors to see as
far as the American border 40 miles away.

changes also include a new pavilion to welcome visitors, a redesigned garden, new
outdoor lighting, installation of mechanical transports to help people climb
the hill to reach the basilica and the restoration of the museum.

spokesman for the congregation said the modifications will modernize the
oratory founded by St. Andre Bessette, who was known as Brother Andre.

in 1904 and built atop Mount Royal, the oratory welcomes 2 million pilgrims and
visitors each year.

The project will be financed in part
by the oratory, which will invest $26.4 million ($20.8 million U.S.), including $10 million ($7.9 million U.S.) from
the city of Montreal. The Canadian government will provide $22 million ($17.3 million U.S.) and
the Quebec provincial government will provide $30.8 million ($24.3 million U.S.).

this is done, we will offer a greener, more convivial, and more accessible
site,” said Holy Cross Father
Claude Grou, oratory rector.

Grou recalled that original plans for the basilica included an observatory, and
that pilgrims and visitors have been wishing for it for many years.

investment will allow us to add a very interesting dimension to this key-site
in our cultural and historical heritage. In a way, (the observatory) will
complete St. Brother Andre’s dream,” he added.

a June 6 meeting to unveil the plan, Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, stressed that the oratory is a symbol of the city. “Its shrine will be transformed and restored by works
worthy of its notoriety and stature,” he said.

of both the federal and provincial governments were on hand for the
announcement. They said the funding is a gift to celebrate the 375th
anniversary in 2017 of Montreal’s founding.

work will occur in two phases. The first, from 2017 to 2019, will include
all exterior work. The second, beginning in 2019, will see the
construction of the observatory within the basilica’s dome.

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Vaillancourt is editor-in-chief of Presence
info based in Montreal.

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