The Mount Royal Cross is one of Montreal’s most iconic landmarks. The illuminated cross was erected in 1924 on the summit of Mount Royal, on the spot where a wooden cross stood as early as in the seventeenth century.
The Legend of the Cross
In December 1642 the city of Montreal, at the time a fortified settlement called Ville-Marie, was threatened by what looked like a disastrous flood. Paul de Chomedey de Maisonneuve, the city’s founder prayed to the Virgin Mary and vowed to erect a cross in her honor if the settlement were spared from the flood.
The water receded and de Maisonneuve kept his promise. On January 6 of the following year he carried a wooden cross all the way to the top of Mount Royal where it was raised.
A New Cross
In 1874, on the instigation of the Sulpician priest Pierre Dupaigne, the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste (an institution that was founded to protect the interests of the Francophone population in Quebec) proposed to erect a new, metal cross in honor of de Maisonneuve. The project, funded through a public subscription, struggled with financial problems and the cross was only completed fifty years later, in September 1924. Five years later the cross was handed over to the city.
The structure was built by the Dominion Bridge Company, a local steel bridge constructor. It contained an observatory in the arms of the cross and originally rested on a stone pedestal. The Montreal Light, Heat & Power company provided free electricity for the lighting of the cross, which to this day is illuminated at night. The led lights are sometimes colored. Each color has a specific meaning. Purple for instance indicates that the pope has died.
The cross is thirty meters tall (about 100 ft) and reaches a height of 251 meters (823 ft). It is one of the most visible landmarks in Montreal and can be seen from all over the city. On a clear day it is visible from eighty kilometers (50 miles) away.
You can reach the cross from the Mount Royal Chalet by walking northward on the inner loop of Chemin Olmstead.