...This is the first time I was ever in a city where you couldn't throw a brick without breaking a church window...
- often cited Mark Twain In Montreal
Ironically, a native Montrealer we met proudly touted that Montreal was one of the most non-religious cities in North America. Scott and I politely countered that Portland also known for being non-religious. I haven't been able to find comparable statistics. In 2009 Oregon was rank #1 US state in residents with no religious affiliation. Another study somewhere mentioned that Quebec was ranked the worst in Canada for church attendance. It is surprising considering the importance of Catholicism in Quebec's history and the overwhelming number of beautiful church architecture.
As someone who was raised in a fundamentalist (and very anti-Catholic) church that met in a rented gymnasium, the huge ornate churches in Montreal and Quebec are ostentatious and impressive. After first seeing these churches in 2000, I really wanted to attend high church services; however, no church building in Portland can really compare.
Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal
(aka Notre-Dame Basilica)
Probably the most ornate sanctuary I've visited, it was the only church that charged a modest $5 tourist admission (no charge for pilgrims) -- which is well worth it.
Tammam mentioned that Celine Dion had a wedding and baptism in this church.
Scott was upset that the square in front of the church was under construction.
The "chapel" behind the sanctuary is just as amazing. Apparently it was quickly rebuilt after a 1978 fire.
(aka Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral)
In any other city, this cathedral would be amazing. However, its architectural style pales compared to the other Montreal churches. It's scaled-down version of St. Peter's in Rome reminds me of a Las Vegas tourist attraction. It doesn't help that the building is dwarfed by the surrounding office towers.
Christ Church Cathedral
The only non-Catholic church we visited, Scott and I preferred this Anglican church's style and scale. It seemed much more approachable and friendly than the massive catholic churches. The rainbow flag in the sanctuary was a nice touch too.
Also, we learned that an underground mall was built under the cathedral which caused the cathedral to be nicknamed the Cathedral-on-stilts during construction.