Friday 15 December 2017

Noël à Montréal

At the end of November, one of our archivists visited Montreal for some professional development. It was a little too early for all the Christmas events and markets, which was unfortunate because Montreal is a festive place to be during the winter season.

Undeterred, our stalwart staff member was determined to gather some Catholic Christmas souvenirs for this blog post and here are the results:

A year ago, The Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavilion for Peace opened at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts to mark the beginning of the city's 375th anniversary. Housed within is a major donation of Old Masters by the eponymous benefactors, which includes many paintings of the Madonna and Child, the Holy Family, and the Nativity.

ARCAT Staff Photo; Canada Post

Virgin and Child by the Master of the Castello Nativity, ca. 1460. Hornstein Collection, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

In this painting, the Infant Christ hold a goldfinch. As this bird eats thistles and thorns, it is a common allusion to Christ's crown of thorns and his Passion.
This painting was chosen by Canada Post for the 2016 Christmas stamp.
See another Christmas stamp from St. Michael's Cathedral Basilica in Toronto.

ARCAT Staff Photo

The Holy Family with the Adoration of the Child by Mariotto Albertinelli, ca. 1505. Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

This round format or tondo is typical of the High Renaissance. The meadow setting suggests that the Holy Family is taking a moment of respite on their Flight into Egypt. Note that the Christ Child is missing a toe on his right foot. 

Keeping with the theme of the Holy Family, the next stop was St. Joseph's Oratory, the largest shrine in the world dedicated to Canada's patron saint.

ARCAT Staff Photo

Views to and from St. Joseph's Oratory with a festive (and trecherous!) dusting of snow and ice. 

ARCAT Staff Photo

The Oratory Museum has two current exhibitions: St. Joseph Likes Montréal and A World in a Crèche

ARCAT Staff Photo

A World in a Crèche
exhibition features a collection of small nativity scenes from around the world, grouped geographically.

ARCAT Staff Photo

The crèche form the United States offers commentary on contemporary American priorities.

ARCAT Staff Photo

The Oratory's Outdoor Crèche by Joseph Guard, 1951; Costumes by François Barbeau, 1980

This life-size polychrome plaster nativity scene was commissioned by the Oratory in 1951 as an outdoor display to be exhibited during the Christmas season. After 30 years of exposure to the elements, a costume designer was hired to make clothes for the statues. They are now part of the Oratory Museum's permanent collection. 

ARCAT Staff Photo

Though Montreal's outdoor Christmas markets were not yet open for shopping, we got to see what the original Christmas gifts would have looked like.

Finally, right beside the Montreal Central train station, some Christmas lights had just gone up at Cathédrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde. When it was inaugurated in 1894, Montrealers could proudly boast that they had the only replica of St. Peter's Basilica in North America.

ARCAT Staff Photo

Mary Queen of the World Cathedral, Montreal, was modelled after St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City 
And on that Christmassy note, it was time to bid adieu to the City of a Hundred Steeples and catch the train for Toronto.

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