Monday, April 15, 2019

The Irish Churches of Quebec - M is for Saint Michael the Archangel

The Church of St. Michael and St. Anthony is a Roman Catholic church located in Mile End, Montreal. It was originally built as the Church of St. Michael and frequented by Irish Catholics. Because of the growth of the Polish community in the area, in 1964 a Polish mission was inaugurated in the church and the church's name was expanded to "St. Michael and St. Anthony".

The church exemplifies cultural hybridity, being a Byzantine-styled church, built for Irish Catholics, in a multicultural neighbourhood, and being home today to mostly Poles and Italians. The church has also been noted for its Byzantine Revival architecture, complete with a dome and minaret-styled tower, making it "one of the more unique examples of church architecture in Montréal.

Construction on the Church of St. Michael the Archangel  began in 1914, for what would grow to become the largest anglophone parish in Montreal. After a brief delay following the commencement of World War I, the church was completed in 1915 at a cost of $232,000, with a capacity of 1,400 people.

Though Mile End was originally a predominately Irish neighbourhood, the Polish community grew such that the two communities "merged into one", and to reflect this change, St. Anthony was appended to the parish name, reflecting the "Conventual Franciscans' devotion to St. Anthony of Padua."

Today, the church is recognised as the focal point for the Polish Catholics of Montreal.

The church was built in the Neo-Byzantine style of architecture, accompanied by a large turquoise dome and minaret-style tower. It was designed by architect Aristide Beaugrand-Champagne [fr] (1876–1950), who was inspired by the Hagia Sophia (originally an Orthodox basilica) in Istanbul (formerly Constantinople). The church also features elements of Gothic and Roman architecture, as well as lombard bands and window tracery reminiscent of Middle Ages castles.

The church's dome features one of the first uses of reinforced concrete in Quebec.

The interior roof of the dome features a neo-Renaissance-style fresco of St. Michael watching the fall of the angels, painted by Italian Guido Nincheri, who painted other churches in Montreal.

Bertha Burns  1892 - 1955
My maternal grandmother, Bertha Burns Bernard had her funeral service at Saint Michael the Archangel in September of 1955 and then interred at Cote de Neige Cemetery.

Bertha was born in 1892 in Quebec City to George Burns and Elizabeth Williamson, the youngest of four children, the others being Albert, William, and Ethel. She and her mother, Elizabeth moved to Mile End in Montreal around 1920 after the death of her father George.

Bertha married Ovila Bernard in 1925 and they had four children, Norman, Pauline, George, and Lorne. 

Bertha only had two grandchildren as Norman and George died young and never married. She never knew her only grandson as he was born 9 years after her death.

She was able to enjoy her only grand-daughter for four years, it would have to be enough as fate took the child to the United States and Bertha would die under mysterious circumstances three years later.


  1. I bet those windows are gorgeous. I have never seen a church with this kind of architecture. Lovely photo of your grandmother, too.

    1. Wendy, thank you so much, my grandmother was very special.