Did you know that the Mount Royal Cross was first lit on December 24, 1924? 98 years ago, this spectacular event lit up the surroundings with 240 electric bulbs attached to the metal structure.
Over the years, this grandiose cross of Mount Royal has become one of the most important identity emblems positioning Montreal internationally.
However, this cross has a historical character since its adventure begins on Christmas Eve 1642 in the fort of Ville-Marie.
That day, it rained heavily on the new settlement at the foot of Mount Royal. The rain has been falling for several days and is causing the river to swell dangerously.
Fort Ville-Marie, built in the spring and summer of the same year, is fragile and risks being destroyed by the rising waters.
Desperate, Maisonneuve prays to the Blessed Virgin, he asks her to save his small colony from the flood.
He then makes a promise to erect a wooden cross on Mount Royal if his wish is granted.
Almost miraculously, the rain stopped within hours.
On January 6, 1643, Kings Day, the governor kept his word. As an act of contrition that these Montrealers imposed on themselves, Maisonneuve and his men proudly carried the famous promised cross and installed it on the mountain.
Ten years later, during a pilgrimage to the cross, Maisonneuve noticed that it had been knocked down, so he commissioned settlers to raise it and protect it with large stakes.
Unfortunately, there is no trace left of this first cross, which we lost track of during the 19th century.
We don't know exactly where it was made. In June 1874, to mark its 40th anniversary, the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste launched the idea of erecting another cross on Mount Royal in memory of the one erected by Sieur de Maisonneuve in the 17th century. .
Statue of the Virgin
To echo this commemoration project, the sculptor Louis-Philippe Hébert, supported by Monsignor Fabre, proposed to erect a gigantic 61-meter bronze statue of the Virgin Mary at the top of Mount Royal.
These ultramontanes dreamed of a titanic sculpture of Sainte-Marie that would dominate Montreal, a bit like Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro. However, that of Montreal would be twice as high as that of Brazil and more imposing than the famous Statue of Liberty in New York.
When the mayor of Montreal Honoré Beaugrand received this proposal for a bronze statue of the Virgin, he rejected it without hesitation.
It took 50 years from the time the idea for a memorial cross germinated until it was installed in 1924.
The moment is propitious, because it is the great era of the typically French-Canadian nationalism of Lionel Groulx.
The Saint-Jean-Baptiste Societies of the country are very influential. The project materializes mainly with the support of several Catholic adults and children who help fundraising by selling commemorative stamps at the price of 5¢ each.
A nod to Jacques Cartier
Construction work began in May 1924. On the arms of the cross, it was intended to create an observation platform, but the project ultimately never took place, for lack of resources.
In mid-September, the Dominion Bridge company finished the metal structure. The Montreal Light, Heat and Power provides free electricity to illuminate it.
In 1929, the Saint-Jean-Baptiste Society offered the cross as a gift to the City.
Slightly oriented towards the east, the majestic cross of Mount Royal, with its 33 meters in height, is visible on clear days from 80 km away.
A visual and heritage landmark, it has become the most important symbol of the city of Montreal.
This magnificent cross erected by the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste is certainly reminiscent of that of Paul de Chomedey, Sieur de Maisonneuve, but it winks at the gesture of Jacques Cartier who also erected a cross in Gaspé in the name of the King of France.