Christmas Past by George Cousins

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1955..midnight.Montreal, Canada, perfectly still night, freezing cold! Christmas Eve. St. Joseph’s Oratory, also known as Brother Andre’s Shrine. While most sensible people had come and gone back to their warm homes, two of us decided it would be nice to photograph the Shrine at the exact moment of Christmas Day, at least in the Eastern Time Zone. Exakta Varex SLR, pulled out of a parka, very quickly placed on the tripod, and probably exposed for a second or two with a 50mm Biotar f.2 lens wide open. Details are a bit fuzzy now. Oh yes, Kodachrome film, ASA 10. The 35mm.slide was scanned at 4000 dpi with a Canoscan 4000US scanner.

Now a bit more about the Basilica: Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal, is a Roman Catholic basilica on the northern slope of Mount Royal in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

In 1904,the construction of a small chapel on the side of the mountain near Notre Dame College, was begun by Blessed André Bessette. Soon the growing number of visitors made it too small. and it was enlarged,but a still a larger church was needed and in 1917 one(called the Crypt) was completed – with a seating capacity of 1,000. In 1924, the construction of the basilica was started and it was finally completed in 1967. The Oratory’s dome is the third-largest of its kind in the world, surpassed only by the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro and Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The Basilica is the largest in Canada.

The basilica is dedicated to Saint Joseph, to whom Brother André credited all his reported miracles. These were mostly related to some kind of healing power, and many pilgrims (handicapped, blind, ill, etc.) poured into his Basilica, including numerous Protestants. On display in the basilica is a wall covered with thousands of crutches from those who came to the basilica and were healed. Pope John Paul II deemed the miracles to be authentic and beatified Brother André in 1982.

A reliquary in the church museum contains Brother André’s heart, which he requested as a protection for the basilica. More than 2 million visitors and pilgrims visit the Oratory every year. It is located at 3800, Queen Mary Road, at Côte-des-Neiges (near to Côte-des-Neiges metro station).

On October 19, 2004, the Oratory held its centennial. All the bells of all the churches on the island of Montreal were supposed to ring at 9:00 a.m., though not all churches participated. At 9:05 a.m., the basilica rang its bell in response and celebration.

In 2005, the Oratory was added to the List of National Historic Sites of Canada on the occasion of its 100th anniversary.

In 2013, a rooftop dome will become open to the public.
(Some of the above information was obtained from Wikipedia, particularly the Dates.)

Featured in Image Writing (2/24)
Featured in A Place to Call Home


  • Stan Wojtaszek
    Stan Wojtaszekover 6 years ago

    Hate to say it, George, but ASA 10 is before my time. I’ll have to admit to being around when Kodachrome 25 was king. I can relate to the cold part though. Good shot, especially for 1955!!

  • Yes, hard to imagine ASA10! My buddy and I used to try all sorts of crazy shots to see if we could get something decent. The fastest film I could get was stuff called Aero Ektachrome, I think it was ASA 25 or so at that time, but it was made for aerial use and gave a bluish cast to most ground shots. High-Speed Ek was fabulous when it came out, quite a few years later.

    – George Cousins

  • blondiegirl
    blondiegirlover 6 years ago

    Wow!! now that is dedication far beyond mine!!! Well Done!!

  • Hi..I’m not sure how I missed sending you a reply, but want to make up for it. Many thanks for the comments, and glad you liked the pic.

    – George Cousins

  • Larry Trupp
    Larry Truppalmost 6 years ago

    Great image George, so well documented as well..thanks

  • Thank you Larry, hope the story will be of interest to some folks.

    – George Cousins

  • Mike Oxley
    Mike Oxleyalmost 6 years ago

    Amazing! I think I was there once – boring old school trip – seem to remember all the crutches…very interesting write up.

  • Hi Mike, nice to meet you, and glad you liked the write-up. I’m sure you’d remember the crutches! I have 2 grandchildren in Cornwall and one in Alexandria(that one gave me a great-grand-daughter). I try to get to see them every summer or Fall.

    – George Cousins

  • Cora Wandel
    Cora Wandelover 5 years ago

  • What a nice Christmas present Cora! Thank you so much!

    – George Cousins

  • CeePhotoArt
    CeePhotoArtover 5 years ago

    Your cohosts,
    Cee and Chris

  • Thanks Cee, you’re very welcome!

    – George Cousins

  • Lori Peters
    Lori Petersabout 5 years ago

    It is still Christmas day here in the USA. So, Merry Christmas.

  • Chappy
    Chappyabout 5 years ago

    Congratulations on well deserved features.


  • BrettStevenson
    BrettStevensonabout 5 years ago

    Stunning. Congratulations on the feature.

  • oulgundog
    oulgundogover 4 years ago

  • Thanks for accepting!!

    – George Cousins

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