For Clarence Epstein, Director of Special Projects and Cultural Affairs at Concordia University, the receding number of steeples on the skyline belies the fact that the city was at one time the chief outpost of Catholicism in the New World as well as the shining jewel in England’s imperial crown – as paradoxical as that may seem. His new book, Montreal, City of Spires: Church Architecture during the British Colonial Period 1760-1860, harkens back to a time when these places of worship were what he terms “strategic public spaces, meeting places and power bases.”
Published as part of the Urban Heritage series by the Presses de l'Université du Québec, this tome provides in-depth research and never-before-published images of fifty structures built in the hundred years following the British conquest of New France. The account of this urban evolution begins with the remarkable series of transformations that took place in what was a small Catholic trading post. Then in the decades leading up to Confederation, as Montreal’s population surges, Epstein traces the city’s transformation into a bastion for many English-speaking communities.
By examining the social, religious and architectural issues surrounding these British-era structures, Epstein addresses the complexities in the historiography of Montreal. “As eclectic as many of these places of worship are in appearance, they reflect our unique makeup,” says Epstein. “While it stands to reason that built forms evolve in tandem with civic needs, these churches, and synagogues for that matter, are testaments to the overlapping histories of our many founding communities.”
Be part of the conversation: To learn more about religious architecture in Montreal, join Clarence Epstein for a special lecture on his research and a walking tour that will encompass several key points of interest in western downtown Montreal.
What: Special lecture
When: Tuesday, April 24, 2012, at 12:30 p.m.
Where: Room EV 1.162, Engineering and Visual Arts Integrated Complex (1515 Ste-Catherine St. W.), Sir George Williams Campus
What: A walking tour
When: Wednesday, May 2, at 11 a.m.
Registration: Contact Cléa Desjardins at 514-848-2424, ext. 5068 or by email (email@example.com).
Both events are free of charge and open to the public.
• Montreal, City of Spires
• Presses de l'Université du Québec