Anyone who has ever flipped through a Montréal travel guide or checked out the Tourisme Montréal website knows that, nestled in the heart of the city’s oldest neighbourhood, there lies a magnificent basilica named after its first parish, Notre-Dame. Sharing a name with one of the most famous cathedrals in Europe, it remains among Montréal’s best known buildings to this day. They say its architecture and interior decoration are well worth the trip—and they’re right!
Notre-Dame Basilica is much more than a 188-year-old heritage church; it is a magnificent, globally-minded place that strives to share its beauty and architectural wealth through a program worthy of a great cultural centre. This mission inspired the show AURA, which opened on Monday. It is the latest project by the Montréal visual and sound effects company Moment Factory, known, among other things, for lighting up Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia in 2011. Watch this video for a sneak peek at the multimedia show. See you again in one minute, 11 seconds.
Well? Looks pretty interesting, doesn’t it?
Whether you’re a believer or not, it’s impossible not to be moved by the beauty of religious art and architecture, regardless of the faith. And what better way to celebrate the city’s heritage than to showcase—in such a decisively modern way—a place as symbolic as Notre-Dame Basilica, the mother church of Montréal! In this show, new technologies, a vital sector of Montréal’s economy, and religious heritage become one.
This immersive experience unfolds in two stages. First, a path of light beckons us to take a fresh look at some of the Basilica’s key works. The light show brings them to life, allowing us to (re)discover their every last detail. Next, a multimedia show about 20 minutes long pays tribute to the building’s interior decoration and architecture. Accompanied by an orchestral soundtrack of choral singing and numerous instruments, among them the church’s organ, the awe-inspiring visual effects are a myriad of contrasts that highlight this extraordinary place in all its grandeur. The result is a powerful and majestic sensory experience to be enjoyed year-round.
Early in the 20th century, the leaders of the Notre-Dame parish began to feel cramped inside their first parish church, which was built in the 17th century along Notre-Dame Street, across from today’s church. This second Notre-Dame church was built over a period of several decades, though the first construction dates back to 1829. With decorative Gothic Revival elements on the outside, it was the largest place of worship in North America at the time. The towers were completed a little later, in the 1840s. The Sainte Chapelle in Paris was the inspiration behind the interior decoration that we see today. Completed at the end of the century, it is the star of the AURA show.
Today, the church is a place of national significance, playing host to, among others, the funerals of prominent figures (Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Maurice “Rocket” Richard, etc.) and celebrity weddings (think Céline Dion’s impressive headdress in 1994).
We hope this majestic Montréal monument continues to shine long into the future.
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