Sunday, September 4, 2011

Anniversary of Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica (September 4, 1853)

Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica (Ottawa)
Prayer of Dedication

Here is reflected the mystery of the Church:

The Church is fruitful, made holy by the blood of Christ:
a bride made radiant with his glory,
a virgin splendid in the wholeness of her faith,
a mother blessed through the power of the Spirit.

The Church is holy, your chosen vineyard:
its branches envelope the world, its tendrils,
carried on the tree of the cross, reach up to the kingdom of heaven.

The Church is favored, the dwelling place of God on earth;
a temple built of living stones,
founded on the apostles with Jesus Christ its corner stone.

The Church is exalted, a city set on a mountain:
a beacon to the whole world, bright with the glory of the Lamb,
and echoing the prayers of her saints.

Lord, send your Spirit from heaven
to make this cathedral an ever-holy place,
and this altar a ready table for the sacrifice of Christ.

Here may the waters of baptism overwhelm the shame of sin:
here may your people die to sin
and live again through your grace as your children.

Here may your children, gathered around your altar,
celebrate the memorial of the Paschal Lamb,
and be fed at the table of Christ's word and Christ's body.

Here may prayer, the Church's banquet,
resound through heaven and earth
as a plea for the world's salvation.

Here may the poor find justice,
the victims of oppression, true freedom.
From here may the whole world clothed in the dignity
of the children of God, enter with gladness your city of peace.

(from the Roman Ritual)

* * *

Celebrating the Dedication of Notre Dame Cathedral in 2011

On September 4, the Church of Ottawa observes the dedication of Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica on that day in 1853.

The importance of the cathedral church in the liturgical life of the diocese flows from the role of the Bishop as the high priest of the Lord’s flock.

Every parish community is related to the Bishop, and therefore the anniversary of the cathedral church’s dedication as a place of worship is celebrated throughout the diocese, except when—as this year—the anniversary falls on a Sunday. The anniversary is observed only in the cathedral, where it is a solemnity, but not in parish churches, where Sunday has a higher rank than a feast; white vestments are worn.

At the cathedral this weekend, after presiding at the anticipated Masses on Saturday at 4:15 PM (English) and 5:15 PM (in French),today, I will preside in French at the 10:30 Mass and in English at noon.

Here are some historic notes gathered from various sources including the cathedral website where one can make a "virtual tour" or request a guided tour (

The cathedral's site at Sussex and St. Patrick was originally home to a small wooden church dedicated to St. James (Saint Jacques) built in 1832. This structure was demolished in 1841 to make way for a larger church, designed by local builder Antoine Robillard and Father Cannon who requested a Neo-classical design.

However, in 1844, after the lower section was completed, the Oblate Fathers took over the parish and Father Telmon was sent from France to finish the construction.

Father Telmon decided to redesign it to be a more standard Neo-Gothic structure, a style which was growing in popularity. This left the lower features, such as the main entrance, Neo-Classical, while the rest is Neo-Gothic; for example, the large windows over the doorway features Gothic pointed arches and tracery.

The main structure was finished in 1846, but it was not until 1866 that the spires were installed. The steeples are topped with standard French-Canadian tin and bells.

The cathedral's exterior is fairly reserved, but the interior is as far more ornate, designed by Mgr Georges Buillon; it is brightly painted and decorated with carved features, exquisite stained glass windows and hundreds of statues of various religious figures. Louis-Philippe Hébert completed thirty large wooden sculptures in the choir.

Above the high altar is Christ the King reigning in glory, bestowing a crown on his Mother Mary as the Queen of Heaven, with St. Joseph attending. Below this scene there are large statues of Saint John the Baptist and Saint Patrick, the holy patron saints of fracophone and English-speaking [Irish] Catholics.

In 1847 the church became a cathedral when Most Reverend Joseph-Eugène-Bruno Guigues, O.M.I. was appointed the first Bishop of Bytown; he is honoured with a lifesize statue to the right of the Cathedral (corner of Sussex and Guigues; his successor, Archbishop Thomas Duhamel's statue is on the corner of Sussex and Guigues). The cathedral was given the honorific title of basilica in 1879.

The Cathedral Basilica of Notre Dame is the oldest church in Ottawa and the seat of the city's Catholic archbishop. Its twin spires and gilded Madonna are easily identifiable from nearby Parliament Hill and the surrounding area.

Dedicated to the Immaculate Conception on September 4, 1853, the Cathedral underwent a major restoration in the 1990's (resulting in the closure of the cathedral for close to two years), to prepare for the celebration of the diocese's sesquicentennial in 1997. This $10M updating was generously provided for by a subscription campaign.

It was the first phase of a multi-year project; most recently (2009-2010) a new steel roof was installed and, to take advantage of the scaffolding erected for this project, the exterior windows were painted and the cross on the south side of the roof was gilded.

Donations to this $1.8M amelioration will continue to be gratefully received at the cathedral office.

* * *

O God, who year by year renew for us the day when this your holy temple was consecrated, hear the prayers of your people and grant that in this place for you there may always be pure worship and for us, fullness of redemption. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

1 comment:

  1. Bien que je sois en communauté au Québec depuis 51 ans, la Cathédrale Notre-Dame d'Ottawa, église de mon baptême, m'est toujours restée chère. Et je garde dans ma prière son pasteur et mes soeurs et frères diocésains. Avec vous tous, je suis dans l'action de grâce pour cette "demeure de Dieu parmi nous"!