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Visiting Ottawa, Ontario: the 19th Century Twin Spires of Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica Reaching for the Sky

Updated on January 27, 2020
Provincial flag of Ontario
Provincial flag of Ontario | Source
Cathedral of Notre Dame in book Views of Ottawa (1884), J. Hope & Co.
Cathedral of Notre Dame in book Views of Ottawa (1884), J. Hope & Co. | Source

A Neogothic flavour of spires and pinnacles

[NB: Among the many notable buildings which are the subject of the hubpages, these may include religious buildings, described as churches, etc.; these descriptions centre on the buildings' architectural and historical interest.]

East Ottawa (1) in the 19th century had particularly large French- and Irish-Canadian population, many of whom were of Roman Catholic affiliation, and thus, close to Nepean Point, overlooking the Ottawa River, a prominent church building was thus erected.

Now known as Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica (2), and classified since 1990 as a National Historic Site of Canada, the main body of the building itself was begun in 1841 (replacing an existing building), while the enormous, twin spires were added in 1858.

These twin spires are the building's most memorable and conspicuous features and they loom large to observers standing over the Ottawa River in Gatineau, in neighbouring Quebec. They also form a striking backdrop to views of the adjacent Major's Hill Park (see photo below). I have also included (above) a nineteenth century view of the building, seen after the massive, twin spires were added..

The design of the building, executed in stone, is strongly Neogothic in its inspiration, with — as befits that style — many pointed arches, pinnacles and flying buttresses. Interestingly, the original plan was for the building, on which various architects and designers worked over many years, to be in Neoclassical style.

The state funerals of HE Georges Vanier (3) and Sir Wilfrid Laurier (4) were held at Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica.

Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica is located at 385 Sussex Drive, Ottawa, ON, close to the National Gallery of Canaca. At times, tours are available of the Cathedral Basilica, which contain numerous artifacts.

January 27, 2020


(1) Prior to 1855, Ottawa was known as Bytown; the name of the Roman Catholic Diocese changed its name to 'Ottawa' in 1860.

(2) See also: ;

(3) HE The Right Honourable Georges Vanier (1888-1967) served as Governor-General of Canada from 1959 to 1967.

(4) The Right Honourable Sir Wilfrid Laurier (1841-1919) served as Prime Minister of Canada from 1896 to 1911.

Some sourcing: Wikipedia

The basilica cathedral Notre Dame in Ottawa at sunset as seen from Major's Hill Park.
The basilica cathedral Notre Dame in Ottawa at sunset as seen from Major's Hill Park. | Source

Also worth seeing

In Ottawa itself, among the numerous visitor attractions are: the National War Memorial of Canada; Château Laurier; the Rideau Canal; Laurier House; Rideau Hall; the Bank of Canada Currency Museum; the Supreme Court of Canada Building, and many others.

Gatineau , Quebec (distance 1.8 kilometres); the Canadian Museum of Civilization (Musée canadien des civilisations), in Gatineau is Canada's most visited museum. Gatineau's Citizen's House (French: Masion du citoyen) has a noted art gallery and the Hall of the Nations (French: Hall des nations ) containing valuable cultural artifacts from around the world. Gatineau Park (French: Parc de la Gatineau) has exceptional recreational and scenic possibilities.


How to get there: Air Canada flies from various North American destinations to Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport / Aéroport international Macdonald-Cartier d'Ottawa; car rental is available; however, visitors may wish instead to use OC Transpo public transit for travel within the Ottawa / Gatineau area. Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. For up to date information, please check with the airline or your travel agent. You are advised to refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

Map location of Ottawa, Ontario
Map location of Ottawa, Ontario | Source

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