Church of Notre-Dame-de-la-Défense National Historic Site of Canada
Church of Notre-Dame-de-la-Défense
Links and documents
1918/01/01 to 1919/01/01
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The Church of Notre-Dame-de-la-Defence National Historic Site of Canada is located in “Little Italy” in the northwest of Montreal where it is associated with the development of the Italian community. Constructed of stone on a Greek cross plan, the Romanesque Revival style church is finished in the Italian manner with an exterior featuring decorative brickwork and interior fresco decoration. Official recognition refers to the interior and exterior of the building on its footprint.
The Church of Notre-Dame-de-la-Defence was designated a national historic site of Canada in 2002 because since its construction in 1918-1919, this church has been closely associated with Canada’s oldest Italian community, established in Montreal in the 1860s.
The building and its interior decorative program, executed in stages, is by artist Guido Nincheri who specifically designed the structure for an Italian Canadian parish. Recalling the Renaissance in Italy, walls and vaults are painted in true fresco. The vault of the apse, executed in 1927- 1933, displays bright colours and a rich iconography with numerous figures, many of which are portraits of contemporary Canadians and Italians. These features make the church a rare and eloquent expression of Canada’s Italian community.
Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, June 2002.
The key elements that contribute to the heritage character of this site include:
- its prominent location within “Little Italy” in northwest Montréal;
- its Greek cross massing set under gabled roofs;
- the construction of Caen stone faced with brick;
- the use of the Romanesque Revival style elaborated in the Italianate manner, as evident in the short arms with relatively monolithic gabled ends, decorative use of arcading, round-headed and rose windows, polychromatic brickwork, Lombard bands beneath the eaves, pilasters, the decoration of the three tympana above the entrances with high relief marble carving;
- the open, plastered interior based on a Greek cross plan with a high vaulted ceiling, the domed crossing supported by four large barrel vaults, the semi-circular half-domed apse, an arcaded galleries;
- the Italian Renaissance-influenced interior decorative scheme, notably the extensive frescoes in the apse, on the crossing vaults and dome, in their extent, materials and iconography and the interior decoration and furnishings designed by Nincheri, including the Carrara marble pulpit, the plaster medallions of the stations of the Via Crucis and Via Matris above the entrances, the wood confessionals, the elaborate reredos, polychromatic marble altar and altar rail, the side alters, and stained glass;
- the five oil paintings depicting saints by Arnaldo Marchetti, Nincheri’s paintings of Giuliana Falconieri and the Seven Holy founders of the Servite Order, and Guido Cassini’s four wood panels depicting the Virgin and saints, and the painted statue above the altar;
- the continued association with the Italian Canadian community.
Government of Canada
Historic Sites and Monuments Act
National Historic Site of Canada
1924/01/01 to 1964/01/01
1962/01/01 to 1964/01/01
1955/01/01 to 1955/01/01
Theme - Category and Type
- Building Social and Community Life
- Religious Institutions
- Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
- Architecture and Design
- Building Social and Community Life
- Community Organizations
Function - Category and Type
- Religion, Ritual and Funeral
- Religious Facility or Place of Worship
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
National Historic Sites Directorate, Documentation Centre, 5th Floor, Room 89, 25 Eddy Street, Gatineau, Quebec
Cross-Reference to Collection