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Montreal, City of Spires

Church Architecture During the British Colonial Period 1760-1860

Clarence Epstein

Publication Year: 2012

Of the fifty religious buildings discussed in this book, only a precious few remain standing despite the fact that Montreal boasts one of the largest and most eclectic groupings of Georgian and Victorian structures of any city in North America. Following the British conquest of New France in 1759 a remarkable series of transformations took place in the small, Catholic trading town of Montreal. Given the diversity of settlers forced to live side by side, the new church buildings that were to rise became strategic public spaces, meeting places as well as power bases. It was no wonder that by the time Mark Twain toured Canada’s first metropolis in the 1880s, he found that one could not throw a brick in the place without breaking a church window. By addressing the social, religious and architectural issues surrounding these colonial-era structures, it will become apparent that Montreal was at once a shining jewel in England’s imperial crown, a chief outpost of Catholicism in the New World, as well as the British North American headquarters for more than a dozen independent congregations.

Published by: Presses de l'Université du Québec

Title Page, Copyright, Frontispiece

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pp. 13

The present volume by Clarence Epstein is the first English publication in this series which also testifies to the evolution of scholarly relationships and the shared commitment to advancing knowledge. As editors of this Presses de l’Université du Québec production, Luc Noppen and...

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pp. 15

This study is based on a doctoral thesis submitted in 1999 to the Centre for Architectural History and Theory at the University of Edinburgh. Having previously completed a master’s thesis on ecclesiastical architecture at the Courtauld Institute of Art, my decision...


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pp. 17

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pp. 19-25

For all of the nineteenth century and at least the first half of the twentieth century, Montreal was the undisputed commercial and cultural hub of Canada. However in the last few decades, since Quebec’s Quiet Revolution, it has suffered major setbacks. Accused of...

Part One - 1760-1830

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pp. 27

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I: Compromising British Ideals 1760-1815

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pp. 29-55

Following the surrender of Montreal in 1760, the Marquis of Vaudreuil signed the Articles of Capitulation, effectively bringing an end to the Seven Years’ War on the continent. The cession of New France was a major windfall, helping to consolidate Britain’s territorial holdings in eastern...

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II: Encroachment of the United States 1805-1825

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pp. 57-79

Attempts to assimilate French Canadians into a new imperial system were further complicated by the arrival of settlers from the American colonies. In the first decades after cession, many enterprising businessmen from New England headed north to profit from the economic...

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III: French-Canadian Reactions 1820-1830

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pp. 81-107

In the aftermath of the War of 1812, there was a noted shift in the French-Canadian attitude toward the British government. The ongoing threat of American annexation encouraged the populace to rally around an imperial authority, which, in the process of defending its own...

Part Two - 1825-1860

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pp. 109

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IV: A Cultural Backwater 1825-1840

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pp. 111-135

Owing to its favourable position downstream from Upper Canada and its strong connections to the commercial centres of Boston and New York, Montreal was poised to become the industrial hub of British North America, but as part of a larger colonial framework, it would have to tailor...

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V: Manipulating Styles 1840-1850

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pp. 137-171

The waves of emigrants arriving in Montreal during the previous decade were substantial enough to shift the majority population from French-Canadian to British. By the early 1840s, more than half of the 40,000 residents were of English, Scottish or Irish descent...

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VI: Clashing Agendas 1850-1860

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pp. 173-205

Perhaps there was no more appropriate description of Montreal at mid-century than the “city of wealth and death.” While the expansion of the transportation system brought about unprecedented levels of commercial prosperity, it also had a negative impact on the social environment...

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pp. 207-211

The Association of Universities and Colleges in Canada established a commission in the 1970s to assess the state of research on Canada, which concluded that no country in the world spent so little time studying itself. Decades later, countless polls and surveys...

Appendix A

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pp. 213

Appendix B

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pp. 215-221

Appendix C

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pp. 223

Appendix D

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pp. 225

Appendix E

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pp. 227-229

List of Maps and Figures

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pp. 231-237


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pp. 239-257

Index of Names

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pp. 259-266

Index of Places

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pp. 267-271

E-ISBN-13: 9782760534230
Print-ISBN-13: 9782760534223

Page Count: 276
Publication Year: 2012

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Church architecture -- Québec (Province) -- Montréal -- History.
  • Architecture and society -- Québec (Province) -- Montréal.
  • Group identity -- Québec (Province) -- Montréal.
  • Montréal (Québec) -- History.
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