Friday, April 17, 2015

2B or Not 2B...................That Was the Question. A Montreal Landmark May Not Have Been

Ahh !  hard to believe that in a religiously dominated province/village/ or whatever(especially 350 years ago) that the cross on the Mtn was ever in question. Here is a story in today's Montreal Gazette...........

Second Draft: The cross on Mount Royal almost never was

Skiers on a trail near the cross on Mont Royal in Montreal, Wednesday, February 4, 2009, shortly after the cross was relit.
PHIL CARPENTER / Montreal Gazette files
Few things proclaim Montreal so unmistakably as the illuminated cross on Mount Royal. It was erected in 1924 by the Société Saint-Jean- Baptiste as a “perpetual monument to the faith of Canada.”
Yet the cross might never have been built had another project for the mountain gone ahead 36 years before.
In April 1888, city council received a petition from prominent Catholics led by Archbishop Édouard-Charles Fabre. It asked that land be set aside at the summit of Mount Royal for a huge statue of the Virgin Mary.
This was not the first time that something monumental had been urged for the mountain. In 1867, French sculptor Louis Rochet proposed that a statue of Jacques Cartier be placed there. City council turned him down. Rochet tried again in 1874, and again was rejected.
That same year on June 24, St-Jean-Baptiste Day, Reverend Alexandre Deschamps preached a sermon in Notre Dame Church calling for a cross on the heights of Mount Royal. It would be a deliberate echo of the far more modest cross that Paul de Maisonneuve, Montreal’s founder, raised on the mountain early in 1643 to thank God for preserving the infant settlement from a disastrous flood. This proposal, too, came to naught, perhaps an ill omen for Archbishop Fabre.
The statue of the Virgin that he wanted would be the work of the distinguished sculptor Louis-Philippe Hébert, whose statue of Maisonneuve has stood in Place d’Armes since 1895. Hébert’s Virgin would be colossal, cast in bronze and standing some 60 metres high, twice the height of today’s illuminated cross.
Opposition was not long in coming. The day after the petition landed in council’s lap, the Daily Witness, a newspaper of evangelical and anti-Catholic bent, fiercely denounced the project: “A more offensive proposition than to set up a shrine on the highest spot on the mountain for the purpose of proclaiming the triumphant dominance of one religion could hardly have been devised. … This is clearly forcing a Romish dogma upon the city.”
The following Monday, leading Protestant clergymen and citizens met to discuss the perceived threat. Banker George Hague warned of “strife … like the letting out of waters of which no man would foresee the end.” James Fleck, a Presbyterian minister, “did not see why they should eat humble pie at the feet of the archbishop and his priests.”
Later that day a delegation from the meeting appeared before council to protest the project. William Bond, the Anglican bishop of Montreal, warned that the “peace of the community” would be threatened if it went ahead. Let Catholics find a site for their statue in Notre Dame des Neiges Cemetery, he said, “where they may erect any statue they please without trenching upon the public domain or offending the religious convictions of thousands.”
Rev. Donald MacVicar, principal of the Presbyterian College at McGill University, said the statue would be “extremely offensive” to Protestants and would “practically deprive them of the free and uninterrupted use” of Mount Royal Park.
Unsurprisingly, the project’s supporters quickly struck back. L’Étendard, a fervently Catholic newspaper, scorned the “rage iconoclastique” of certain Protestants and even found a moderate one, a stationer named Walter Street, who thought “a statue to the Mother of Christ very appropriate in the centre of a Catholic people.” The True Witness and Catholic Chronicle, its editorial eye fixed firmly on the statue of Queen Victoria in Victoria Square, acidly said a host of Montrealers “find a more perfect ideal of womanhood in the mother of Jesus Christ than in the mother of the Prince of Wales.”
Buffeted by the storm, council began to waver. Alderman Jacques Grenier, who had actually presented Archbishop Fabre’s original petition, mentioned a possible legal objection: if the city’s attorney found that council didn’t have the power to grant land for the statue, the project would have to be dropped.
And so it was — for several reasons, historian Alan Gordon notes, not the least of which was that most prosaic of impediments, “the lack of funds.”


BobB said...

Not much has changed. Fussing about religion. And some politics thrown in for good measure.

Gotta love it.

Les_F said...

You are right Bob, what was it they used to say "The more things change, the more they remain the same"
Cheers ! LesF

BobB said...

Absolutely Les. Thanks for posting this. BobB