Heart and Flowers

Friday, June 18, 2010 Road Junkies 0 Comments

Day 49:  Montreal, QC
When Montreal played host to the 1976 Summer Olympic Games, numerous new facilities were built for the events. Many were constructed in the area now known as Parc Olympique (Olympic Park). A major highlight of the park is the 575-ft. Montreal Tower which was incorporated into the base of the Olympic Stadium.
Currently the stadium, which once housed Montreal's now defunct professional baseball team, has no main tenant. With a history of financial and structural problems, it is known locally as "The Big O" (for its doughnut shape) or "The Big Owe" (because of its astronomical cost to build).
Opposite Olympic Park, we visited the internationally recognized Montreal Botanical Garden (Jardin botanique de Montréal),which showcases more than 22,000 varieties of plants. The rose garden alone contains more than 10,000 plants. The gardens cover 180 acres.
St. Joseph's Oratory in Montreal is the largest church in Canada. Commanding the top of Mount Royal, the city's highest hill, the oratory is one of the world's largest basilicas. Construction began in 1904 and it took six architects and 63 years to complete. Included in the basilica's impressive facilities are a carillon originally built for the Eiffel Tower, two elevators, three banks of escalators, acres of free parking and a restaurant supervised by a full-time French chef.
Behind St. Joseph himself, the star of the oratory is the man whose dream inspired this magnificent cathedral-- a semiliterate French-Canadian orphan turned priest who was known as "Brother André, the miracle man of Mount Royal." A humble man who suffered from chronic illness, it was said that he had miraculous healing power, reportedly curing as many as 15,000 crippled, blind and dying pilgrims a year. The oratory was constructed on the site of a simple wooden chapel Brother Andre built to receive visitors who came to him for healing.

When he died in 1937, at the age of 91, half a million people filed past his bier, and Brother André was put up for sainthood, which was approved earlier this year, with formal canonization scheduled for October. Millions of pilgrims visit his marble tomb in the basilica each year. When we were exploring the cathedral today, we saw a sign on the elevator indicating that the 4th floor was the site of "Coeur du'Frere Andre."

We had just been discussing Sacré Coeur (Sacred Heart) Cathedral, which is built atop Montmarte, the highest point in Paris, so the meaning of the French word was at the forefront of our minds. Surely, we thought, this would be an exhibit about the building of the cathedral, the figurative "heart of Brother André." We soon discovered that were wrong.
At the time of Brother André’s death, the Archbishop of Montreal suggested reviving a little-known custom of the Middle Ages. In medieval France and Italy, when people of note passed away their hearts were often removed from their bodies before burial and preserved as a token of admiration or recognition. Brother Andre's heart, preserved in an urn filled with a formalin solution, is on display in the basilica near a life-size diorama depicting scenes from his life.

In a peculiar crime in 1973, the heart was stolen from the oratory. After the church refused to pay a $50,000 ransom demand, the heart was thought lost until the following year when an anonymous tipster notified police of its location in a storage locker. The heart was recovered and replaced in the basilica.  Such fascinating things we learn when we travel.
 
Daily Stats
Miles driven:  34
Miles walked:  4.75
High temp:  86° F (That'll teach us to whine about 77!)
School kids visiting Olympic Park:  493 (It's field trip season.)
Napping school bus drivers:  7
Flowers:  572,912
Steps to top of cathedral:  285
Human hearts:  1
Brake usages in stop 'n' go Montreal traffic:  912