Montreal’s rich tapestry of religious history boasts a diverse array of churches that reflect its cultural heritage and spiritual traditions. In this article, we embark on a journey through the city’s Orthodox and Protestant churches, exploring their fascinating past, stunning architecture, and enduring significance to the community.
From the timeless beauty of St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church, built in the 1930s, to the iconic Christ Church Cathedral, a neo-Gothic gem in the heart of downtown, each place of worship offers a unique glimpse into Montreal’s religious landscape.
As we delve into the stories behind these sanctuaries, we invite you to discover the deep-rooted traditions and the profound impact these churches have on the spiritual life of Montrealers.
For those interested in exploring Catholic churches, be sure to check out our linked article dedicated to the city’s captivating Catholic heritage.
Christ Church Cathedral
Christ Church Cathedral, a prominent Anglican Gothic Revival cathedral in Montreal, serves as the seat of the Anglican Diocese of Montreal. It stands at 635 Saint Catherine Street West, between Avenue Union and Boulevard Robert-Bourassa, above the Promenades Cathédrale underground shopping mall. Recognized as a National Historic Site of Canada, the cathedral was designed by architect Frank Wills in 1859.
Despite facing destruction by fire twice, the cathedral was rebuilt and consecrated in 1867. Modeled after 14th-century Gothic-style churches in England, it features a square crossing tower. However, engineering flaws caused the central stone tower and steeple to lean and subside. In 1940, a lighter aluminum steeple replaced the original stone spire.
The cathedral houses a notable Karl Wilhelm pipe organ, opus 77, installed in 1981. It serves as the regimental church for the Canadian Grenadier Guards, who march to the cathedral annually for Remembrance Day.
Every Saturday at 2 pm, the cathedral hosts “L’Oasis musicale,” a series of free concerts supporting young aspiring musicians from Montreal’s music colleges and beyond. The diverse repertoire includes classical, popular, folk, religious, and traditional music, making it accessible to all.
St. George’s Anglican Church
St. George’s Anglican Church, a heritage site in downtown Montreal, holds historical significance as a National Historic Site. Originally opened in 1843 on Notre-Dame Street, it was built to accommodate the growing Anglican congregation from Christ Church Cathedral.
In 1869, a new church was constructed on the corner of Peel Street and De la Gauchetière Street, designed by Montreal architect William Tutin Thomas in the English Gothic Revival style. The church’s bell tower, designed by Alexander Francis Dunlop, was completed in 1894.
The interior boasts impressive features such as pointed arches, pinnacles, and dark wood paneling. Notably, it houses an exquisite three-light congregational war memorial window by Charles William Kelsey, depicting angels holding shields representing the Navy, Army, and Air Force. Stained glass windows, traditional English woodwork, and a tapestry from Westminster Abbey add to the church’s charm.
The exposed double-beam hammer roof in the interior is second in size only to the Westminster Hall, making it an architectural marvel. Serving as the parish for former St. Jude Church and Church of the Advent, St. George’s continues to be a symbol of heritage and English religious architecture in Montreal.
Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul
The Church of Saint Andrew and St. Paul is a prominent Presbyterian church in downtown Montreal, situated at 3415 Redpath Street, near Sherbrooke Street (Route 138). Adjacent to the Golden Square Mile, it is conveniently located close to esteemed landmarks like the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Concordia University (Sir George Williams Campus), and the Guy-Concordia Metro station.
Originally two congregations, this church was formed in 1918 through their merger. The present Gothic Revival-style building, designed by H. Ross Wiggs, opened its doors in 1932, constructed with steel, reinforced concrete, and stone for the interior. Stretching 67 meters in length, the church’s exterior tower reaches 41 meters in height, adding to its grandeur and significance within the city.
The church’s interior, resembling a cathedral, features three aisles and impressive stained glass windows, including renowned works by William Morris from the English Arts and Crafts Movement. Notably, the organ, built by Casavant Frères in 1932, boasts 7,000 pipes and stands as Montreal’s largest.
Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church
The Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church in Westmount, Montreal, is a parish of the Serbian Orthodox Eparchy of Canada. Serbs settled in Montreal in the early 20th century, and in 1954, Hieromonk Justinian (Ilkić) became their first parish priest. The community gathered in a rented Ukrainian Church hall and elected their first Church Board.
In 1960, V. Rev. Dimitrije Najdanović’s arrival marked positive changes, leading to the establishment of a Church, community center, and priest residence under one roof on De Bullion Street. The church’s consecration was set for 12 June 1963, but delays occurred due to complaints filed against Bishop Dionisije.
In 1976, with Dr. Dragutin “Drago” Papić’s leadership, they purchased a former Presbyterian Church in Westmount, originally built in 1900, and consecrated it on 31 October 1976. Later, the church council initiated a building fund for the Serbian Community Centre’s repairs and reconstruction.
St. James United Church
Saint James United Church, a heritage church in downtown Montreal, is affiliated with the United Church of Canada. Designed by architect Alexander Francis Dunlop, this Gothic Revival church stands out for its false apse housing church offices and the renowned Casavant Frères organ.
Built in June 1889, it once held 2,000 seats, earning the nickname “Cathedral Church of Methodism” as the largest Methodist church in Canada. Today, it is part of the United Church of Canada, following the merger of Canadian Methodists in 1925. The congregation’s historical contributions include founding the first YMCA in North America and advocating for women’s suffrage in the early 20th century.
The church houses the Charles William Kelsey’s World War I memorial window, dedicated to 32 members who lost their lives overseas and 267 others who served during the Great War. Side lights represent the cardinal virtues of Justice, Prudence, Temperance, and Fortitude.
In 1927, the church allowed the construction of a commercial building in front of its Sainte Catherine Street facade to cover upkeep costs, concealing the church for over 78 years, with only a large neon sign announcing its presence.
In 2005, an $8-million restoration effort, sponsored by the city of Montreal and the Quebec government, led to the demolition of a portion of the commercial buildings, revealing the church facade and creating a new public square designed by Quebec architect Claude Cormier. In recognition of its historical significance, the church was designated as a National Historic Site of Canada in 1996.
St Jax Montréal
St Jax Montréal, an Anglican church in Montreal, stands at 1439 Sainte-Catherine Street West. Originally known as St. James the Apostle Anglican Church, the Gothic Revival structure was built with grey limestone and earned the nickname “St. Crickets in the Fields” due to British army officers playing cricket beside it during the American Civil War.
Over the years, the church has undergone various changes, including alterations, expansions, restorations, and partial demolitions. Notably, a rectory and small chapel were built but later demolished and rebuilt. The church’s significance includes an Ascension window dedicated to Canon Allan P. Shatford, the second Rector of St. James the Apostle.
In 2015, it was announced that the parish of St. James the Apostle would dissolve, with a new church plant supported by Holy Trinity Brompton taking its place in 2016. Currently, St Jax Montréal operates as a mission parish, wholly supported by the Anglican Diocese of Montreal.
The church garden, recently renovated by volunteers from Innovation Jeunes, is open to the public daily during office hours. Inside, St. Jax features thirty-one stained glass windows, with several significant ones, including depictions of St. James, Christ, and a tribute to those who fought in World War I.
A unique decorative frieze around the nave ceiling contains the entire Apostles’ Creed. The church was presented with a Cross of Nails from Coventry Cathedral after its destruction in the Coventry Blitz of 1940, symbolizing a connection to Coventry Cathedral’s pursuit of relevance in the international Christian community.
Union United Church
The Union United Church in Montreal, founded in 1907, is the city’s oldest black congregation. Initially established by members of the black community who faced racial discrimination and exclusion from white churches, Union Church began with only $1.83 in its treasury. Throughout its history, the church underwent various changes and relocations but remained an integral part of the black tradition within the United Church of Canada.
Starting with just 26 attendees in its first service, Union Church gradually grew, attracting African Canadians from the United States and the West Indies. The church’s importance extended beyond worship, with the basement hosting various black organizations and clubs, contributing to the community’s social life and cultural activities.
In 1925, Union Church joined the United Church of Canada, formed by the amalgamation of several Presbyterian, Congregationalist, and Methodist churches. Despite facing potential relocation due to metro line expansion in the 1970s, the church managed to preserve its historical location.
Today, Union United Church continues to thrive, attracting members from various backgrounds and nationalities. Over the years, the church has welcomed notable visitors and played a crucial role in Montreal’s black community, fostering social integration and community support through initiatives like the Negro Community Centre.
St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church
St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church, located in Montreal’s Villeray neighborhood, is a remarkable brick church with a pediment-capped façade featuring twin three-storey bell towers.
Its distinctive design includes a group of three round-arch windows above an arched entranceway. The interior showcases a blend of Byzantine and western influences, with a spacious arched central nave adorned with beautiful murals and stained glass windows.
Architect Joseph-Raoul Gariépy designed the church, which was built in 1939–40 to cater to the Syrian Orthodox community in Montreal. In 1999, the church received the prestigious designation of a National Historic Site of Canada, signifying its significance in preserving the history and traditions of the community.
The church’s history is intertwined with the Syrian immigrants’ arrival in Québec during the 1890s. Establishing a “Syrian Benevolent Society” in 1896, the newcomers aimed to maintain a sense of community and support fellow immigrants.
As the population grew, the community established two distinct parishes: “St. Nicholas Orthodox Church of Montréal” (later renamed St. George) and “St. Nicholas Orthodox Church of Canada.” Today, St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church continues to be a cherished symbol of the Syrian Orthodox community’s rich heritage in Canada.
Church of St. John the Evangelist
St. John the Evangelist is an Anglican parish in Montreal, affiliated with the Anglican Church of Canada. Situated at 137 President Kennedy Avenue in downtown Montreal, the church follows the Anglo-Catholic tradition, making it the only Anglican locale in Quebec to do so. Commonly referred to as the “Red Roof Church,” it was founded by Father Edmund Wood in 1861.
Designed by architect William Tutin Thomas, the church was built between 1877 and 1878 and consecrated in 1905. Its architectural style, termed ‘slum Gothic,’ resembles the churches developed for poor Ritualist parishes in London. The building features a linear design with a slate roof, later replaced by red-painted metal. The sanctuary is adorned with 13 high lancet windows, and there is a small bell tower above.
Inside, the church offers a spacious, well-proportioned area designed on the ‘golden section.’ The sanctuary includes a pentagonal apse enclosing the high altar, separated by a stone rood-screen adorned with a crucifix and statues of St. Mary and St. John. Notable additions include a choir loft housing the Hellmuth Wolff organ and side chapels dedicated to St. Anne and the Rector-Founder.
St. John the Evangelist celebrates Solemn High Mass on Sundays and feast days, along with Solemn Evensong and Benediction on several Sundays throughout the year. It also hosts weekly Mass in French and English on Tuesdays and Thursdays, respectively.
Designated as a historical and religious heritage site by the Conseil du Patrimoine religieux du Québec, the church has appeared in film and television productions.
Saint Sophie Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral
Saint Sophie Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral, is a significant Ukrainian Orthodox cathedral in Montreal. Situated in the Rosemont district at the intersection of Saint-Michel Boulevard and Bellechasse Street, the cathedral serves not only as a place of worship but also as a vibrant Ukrainian cultural center.
The cathedral, designed by architect Volodymyr Sichynskyi, was constructed between 1960 and 1962. Its front facade features stone, while the exterior walls are made of brick, and the roof is covered in copper.
The congregation of Saint Sophie was formed in 1925, with fifteen individuals joining the Ukrainian Orthodox Brotherhood. Initially, the community gathered for prayer at the Syrian Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas on Notre-Dame Street, 54.
A significant event occurred on June 14, 1925, when the first liturgy was celebrated in the Ukrainian language by Father Semen Savchuk, the head of the Consistory of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Canada, inspiring the community to begin construction of a new cathedral.
As the community grew, it became evident that a larger building was needed. In 1954, a large parcel of land at the corner of Bellechasse and Saint-Michel was purchased, and the current cathedral was constructed in a traditional Byzantine style, influenced by the Saint Volodymyr Cathedral in Kyiv.
The cathedral serves as a cathedral for the Eastern Eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada, whose headquarters are located in Winnipeg.