Oratoire St-Joseph

Top choice church

in Lachine Canal, Little Burgundy & the Southwest
Image by Guylain Doyle / Getty Images

The gigantic oratory honors St Joseph, Canada’s patron saint. The largest shrine ever built in honor of Jesus’ earthly father, this Renaissance-style building was completed in 1960 and commands fine views of the northern slope of Mont-Royal. The oratory dome is visible from anywhere in this part of town. The oratory is also a tribute to the work of Brother André, the determined monk who first built a little chapel here in 1904.

There’s a small museum dedicated to Brother André, who was beatified in 1982. André was said to have healing powers and as word spread, a larger shrine was needed so the church began gathering funds to build one. Rows of discarded crutches and walking sticks in a votive chapel testify to this belief and the shrine is warmed by hundreds of candles. Brother André’s heart is on view, too. It was stolen some years ago but later returned intact. Film buffs will know that scenes of Jésus of Montréal were shot along the Way of the Cross outside the oratory.

Religious pilgrims might climb the 300 wooden steps to the oratory on their knees, praying at every step; other visitors take the stone stairs or one of the free shuttle buses from the base parking lot.

Guided tours are available ($6 per person, 1:30pm and 3pm, June to August).