Sunday, December 20, 2015

Tourism Madness at the Notre Dame Basilica Montreal, Quebec

The Notre Dame Basilica in Montreal is a beautiful piece of architecture. She was definitely in my important list of places to visit. There is however a fee to get inside the church and this had me wondering on how the local Catholic parishioners conduct their worship here. Do they pay the fee every time they come in to pray or attend a mass? Perhaps they have a member pass?

Which leads me to my topic: Tourism Madness at the Notre Dame Basilica Montreal.

Regrettably, the church has, to a certain extent, lost its ultimate function and soul. She has largely become a local tourist attraction, a museum and a historical piece so to speak. It is a bit sad to witness a place that has lost its purpose and meaning.

When my niece AnK and I went inside, we were received by the spectacular gothic altar illuminated in heavenly blue lighting. She glared in front of us with exquisite presence. I tell you, our eyes were kept glued to the altar for at least a minute or two. Breath taking. The entrance fee we paid paled in comparison to what we just saw.

As we walked near the altar to inspect it in detail, we were suddenly disturbed by someone talking loudly. We turned around and saw a large group of eager tourists. It’s the tour group leader giving a rundown of facts about the Notre Dame Basilica. Our initial reaction was – WTF? Why is someone talking loudly inside the church, let alone holding a lecture as if we were in class?

I personally have been to hundreds of churches around the world, especially in Europe and this is the first time that I have seen a tour group with a tour group leader loudly narrating information inside a what is supposed to be a still largely functioning church.

The act is just very impersonal. I do not see any sense of respect at all. The church is supposed to be a sacred place, right? Why must the soul of the church be compromised? I am not a Christian nor a religious individual but this is a big turn off.

We walked around the corner and we caught a big SILENCE sign on one of the pillars of the church. We just shook our heads.

Then as we reached back near the entrance, we noticed an enclosed glass area. As we moved closer we realised that it is a separate chapel inside the church. We thought that is a bit sad that for people to pray in silence they must do it inside the chapel than in front of the main altar.

It looks like tourism goes first these days than the church’s original purpose. Eh, wrong priorities?

Why don’t they give tour groups alternatives? Rather than have a tour group leader talking loudly in public, give people a leaflet to read or an audio with earphones to listen to information in silence. Maybe it is time to create an interactive Notre Dame Basilica app for people to download? In Italy, they even go as far as cordoning the main altar and worship area from tourists.

What I am trying to say: There are alternatives to keep the culture real and alive.

The Notre Dame Basilica in Old Montreal.

This church is an eye candy for architecture, design and history enthusiasts.

The pipe organ at the back of the church.

The SILENCE sign and you can see the tour group leader standing near the altar giving a lecture to her group of tourists.

The glass enclosed chapel inside the church near the entrance (to the right) used for intimate prayers.

Stunning gothic altar. The background blue lighting gives a spiritual and celestial ambiance.

The church faces the Place d'Armes in Old Montreal.

Travel Period: September 2015
Destination: Montreal (Quebec), Canada

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