My Montreal museum cocktail for the week led me to the small museum in Saint Joseph's Oratory, the grand basilica located on one of Mount Royal's peaks. I had already passed the Oratory and its enormous dome several times, and I was excited to learn what it was exactly.
On a sunny May day, I arrived at the base of the Oratory's hill and was faced with seemingly never-ending outdoor stairs winding their way up. There was a free shuttle to get to the top, but it seemed wrong to go indoors on such a sunny day. As I made my way up the stairs, I enjoyed increasingly dramatic views of Montreal. Towards the top, I reached a fork in the path: I could either go straight to the museum and basilica, or take a detour in a verdant garden.
I chose the garden.
It turned out to be a sculpture garden. The "Gardens of the Way of the Cross" are an outdoor version of the Stations of the Cross. Here, sixteen 'stations' show scenes of Jesus on the day of his crucifixion through groupings of larger-than-life limestone statues.
The statues were designed and modeled by the Montreal artist Louis Parent and were carved by Ercolo Barbiere in 1958. There are 42 characters, each approximately 9 feet high, displayed chronologically. Each scene blends harmoniously in the lush landscape, designed by Frederick Todd.
As I meandered up the path, I felt like the statues were actively telling their story, like a play. It was an emotional experience to take a physical journey through what is meant to be a 'spiritual pilgrimage'. Everything was so visceral, from the stillness of the stark statues to the sweet scent of blooming lilacs.
Indeed, after this trek from sorrow to resurrection, it was slightly anticlimactic to find that the Fountain of Redemption, at the end of the path, was dry.
Here are the sixteen Stations of the Cross in the Oratory's Gardens
Address: 3800 Chemin Queen Mary, Montréal ∣ Métro: Station Côte-des-Neiges (Blue Line) or Snowdon (Orange and Blue Lines) ∣ Opening hours: Varies depending on the season