Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal, located in Montreal’s Westmount neighborhood, is Canada’s largest church and a registered National Historic Site. Started as a small chapel in 1904, the Roman Catholic basilica has grown to contain a cryptic church, a museum, gardens, a 56-bell carillon, and one of the largest church domes in the world.
As one of Montreal’s top landmarks, Saint Joseph’s Oratory is a stop on most hop-on hop-off bus routes, which is a convenient way to explore without the hassle of navigating on their own. Since the oratory is off the beaten path, city tours that provide coach transportation typically include a stop or drive-by viewing. You can also opt for a private tour, which will allow you to tack on an oratory visit to a customized itinerary.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Saint Joseph’s Oratory is a must for planners and history buffs.
- Wear comfortable walking shoes and prepare to climb 280 steps to reach the main basilica.
- The oratory is wheelchair accessible; wheelchairs are available for free at the votive chapel.
- Guided tours are available for $5 from June through September.
- Mass is typically held in French, though there’s also the occasional mass held in English.
How to Get There
Located just 2.4 miles (4 kilometers) from Downtown, Saint Joseph’s Oratory is easily accessible using Montreal’s public transit system. The nearest transit stops are the Côte-des-Neiges metro station on the blue 5 line, Oratoire Saint-Joseph on bus 166, and Victoria and No 4811 on bus 124. If traveling by car, drive north on Côte-des-Neiges Road and turn left on Queen Mary Road. Visitor parking is available for $5 per vehicle.
When to Get There
A place of Roman Catholic worship, the oratory is busiest on Sundays. Go on a weekday for a quieter visit. Mass is held in the cryptic church from Monday to Saturday, and in the basilica on Sunday. An annual celebration of Saint Brother André, patron saint of caregivers in Canada, is held throughout the month of August and includes outdoor concerts, recitals, Wednesday sunsets on the terrace, and exhibits on Brother André.
Music to Your Ears
Saint Joseph’s Oratory holds a variety of concerts throughout the year—a local secret often unknown to visitors passing through Montreal. In addition to the Sunday Concert Series that features world-renowned organists from around the globe, the oratory holds frequent carillon recitals, boys’ choir concerts, and sunset performances on the terrace throughout the summer. A full calendar of these events can be found on the oratory's website.