Mount Royal is a large volcanic-related hill or small mountain in the city of Montreal, immediately west of downtown Montreal, Quebec (in Canada), the city to which it gave its name. The forest is a green jewel rising above downtown Montreal, and is known for its beautiful autumn foliage as well as extensive hiking and cross-country ski trails. Biking is restricted to the main gravel roads. From 1885 to 1920, the Mount Royal Funicular Railway brought sightseers to its peak. After it ceased service, Montreal’s No. 11 streetcar brought visitors to the peak. A roadway named for longtime but controversial former mayor Camillien Houde, jailed during the Second World War for his opposition to Canada’s war effort, now bisects the mountain. Ironically, Houde had been opposed to the idea of putting a road through the park. The first European to scale the mountain was Jacques Cartier, guided there in 1535 by the people of the village of Hochelega. He named it in honor of his patron, Francis I of France.
Basilica of Saint Joseph
In 1904, Saint André Bessette, began the construction of St. Joseph, a small chapel on the eastern slopes of Mont Royal near Notre Dame College. Soon the growing number of the congregation made it too small. In 1917 a larger church was completed that had a seating capacity of 1,000. In 1924, the construction of the basilica of Saint Joseph’s Oratory was commenced; it was finally completed in 1967. It is Canada’s largest church. In 2004, the Oratory was designated a National Historic Site of Canada on the occasion of its 100th anniversary. In 2004 Canada Post issued “Saint Joseph’s Oratory, Quebec” in the 2004 Tourist Attractions series. The stamp was designed by Catharine Bradbury & William Stewart based on a photograph by Bernard Brault. The 49¢ stamps are perforated kiss cut and were printed by Lowe-Martin Company Inc. From the top, you can see the edge of the island of Montréal and the Saint Laurence river.
View from the Top
The mountain is the site of Mount Royal Park (in French: Parc du Mont-Royal), one of Montreal’s largest greenspaces. The park was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, who also co-designed New York’s Central Park, and inaugurated in 1876, although not completed to his design.
Olmsted had planned to emphasize the mountainous topography through the use of vegetation. Shade trees at the bottom of the carriage path would resemble a valley. As the visitor went higher, the vegetation would get more sparse to give the illusion of exaggerated height. City officials wanted a reservoir atop the mountain instead and Olmsted planned a grand promenade around it. However, Montreal suffered a depression in the mid-1870s and many of Olmsted’s plans were abandoned. The carriage way was built, but it was done hastily and without regards to the original plan. None of the vegetation choices were followed, and the reservoir was never built.
Monuments and Beaver Lake
The Georges-Étienne Cartier monument on the Park Avenue side was inaugurated in 1919 and the illuminated cross in 1924. The lookout chalet (1932) and Beaver Lake (1938) were the fruit of work projects created to help workers left jobless by the Depression.
McGill University is an English-language public research university in Montreal, Canada. It was established by royal charter issued by King George IV of Great Britain in 1821. The University bears the name of James McGill, a prominent Montreal merchant from Scotland whose bequest in 1813 formed the university’s precursor, McGill College. McGill’s main campus is set at the foot of Mount Royal in Downtown Montreal.
Fall Foliage on Mount Royal
In 1954, many trees were cut down to try to “discourage immorality” in the underbrush, which is why so few of the park’s trees are more than half a century old. The fall foliage really is beautiful in Mont Royal Park and worth a visit if you visit Montréal in the fall. It was a beautiful, crisp day when we visited and we had a great time. As always, I hope you enjoyed the post, please leave a comment.