As Montreal’s first Anglican community, Christ Church Cathedral has been lifting up the cross of Christ since its inception. The Cathedral building, on the other hand, has not been without architectural issues, and has faced many challenges in holding up its spire cross. The original stone spire, built in the 1850s, weighed nearly 1.6 million kilograms––about as heavy as 150 school buses. By the 1920s, the Cathedral’s spire leaned more than a metre to the south. To save the building from collapse, the original spire was taken down in 1927 and replaced in 1940 with a much lighter steel and aluminum version.
However, a chemical reaction between the steel and aluminum tiles corroded the frame over time, and in 2016, the Cathedral’s spire was at risk of collapsing into the building. We had to act fast––to save the building, and to ensure the safety of the public––so we got to work right away.
We are pleased to announce that we have finally reached the last stage of the project. On May 19th 2022, the Cathedral’s cross was reinstalled atop the spire. Together with Rector’s Warden Sheena Gourlay, Dean Bertrand Olivier braved his fear of heights and climbed 70 metres to the top of the spire to rededicate and bless the cross as a symbol of Christ’s abiding presence in the heart of downtown Montreal. This event, two years after the cross had been taken down, launched the final phase of the project: replacing the aluminum tiles on the spire’s roof and taking down the scaffolding that has surrounded the building since 2017.
The project was initially projected to cost $6 million dollars, and take place largely offsite. Although the architects had originally planned to cut the spire in half and remove it to be rebuilt, this was ultimately impossible. Instead, the team of metal restoration experts and masons has restored the spire while leaving it in place. Unfortunately, this challenge, as well as unexpected tower repairs and COVID-19 disruptions have nearly doubled the project cost. The price of saving our spire has soared to approximately $10.5 million dollars.
We have received generous support throughout this project, but we are still working to raise sufficient funds for the astronomical cost. We have been fortunate to receive generous funding from the Conseil du Patrimoine Religieux du Québec, as well as a grant of $1 million from Parks Canada. We have also received support from a number of philanthropic organizations and individuals, along with contributions from members of the Cathedral congregation and the wider Anglican community. Despite the generous support we have received, we are anticipating a shortfall of between $1 and $1.5 million at the end of the project. And so our fundraising efforts continue.
Located at the heart of the commercial life of the city, Christ Church Cathedral is a visible and vibrant Anglican presence amidst soaring buildings of glass and steel. We are open every day, providing a place of welcome and hospitality to all who live, work, or shop downtown. Today, we are inviting you to be part of this project to ensure the ongoing witness of our tradition by contributing to ‘burning the Cathedral mortgage’, essentially ensuring the reduction or cancellation of any shortfall at the end of the restoration works. Any contribution––large or small––will help us continue to stand as a symbol of God’s love in the heart of Montreal.
If you are feeling in-spire-d to donate, please make a donation here or mail a check to Christ Church Cathedral, 1444 Av. Union, H3A 2B8, with the words “spire restoration” in the memo. All donations over $20 will receive a tax receipt.
Thank you for your support and for your prayers,
Bertrand Olivier and the Christ Church Cathedral Community