The Oratory Carillon Returns from France After a Major Restoration

Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal celebrated the return of its imposing carillon, following a major restoration carried out since 2019 by France’s Fonderie Paccard. The bell blessing ceremony took place on Saturday, June 17, 2023 at 10:30 a.m., in the presence of the titular carillonist, Andrée-Anne Doane, Cyril Paccard, donors and Oratory staff. The only carillon in the province, it is an important part of Quebec’s heritage.

Photos of the Blessing Ceremony

Bell Exhibition

The bells were temporarily installed in a structure near the forecourt in front of the Crypt Church, to allow the public to admire them up close on June 17 and 18, before being integrated into the bell tower.

An instrument in a Class of its Own

The only one of its kind in the province, the Oratory’s carillon is an important part of Quebec’s heritage. In addition to the 56 restored bells, six new bells have been added, including a bourdon, the largest bell with a distinctive low tone. The keyboard and transmission system to the bells were also rebuilt.

The set of bells making up the carillon was produced by Fonderie Paccard, a French foundry and bell-making company established in 1796. Originally intended for the Eiffel Tower, it was loaned to Saint Joseph’s Oratory in 1955 for its 50th anniversary, before being donated by generous donors.

Six new bells added

The success of Saint Joseph’s Oratory’s fundraising campaign has led to the addition of six new bells for its carillon. The 62 bronze bells make up an instrument weighing almost 19,000 kg. The largest bell, the bourdon, weighs 3,600 kg, while the smallest weighs just 5 kg.

Visitors are often surprised to learn that the bells do not move. The sounds produced by the carillon are created by the bells’ clappers, which are operated by wires connected to the keyboard. The carillonist plays with her fist or open hand, pushing wooden levers in two rows and operating a pedalboard. Due to the great rarity of the instrument, there are only three active carillonists in Quebec, including the Oratory’s incumbent and her recently graduated son.

Restoration of the carillon was carried out as part of a major development project involving the construction of a new reception pavilion, reconfiguration of the gardens, renovation of a museum area and development of the basilica’s dome.

The Oratory’s rebuilt carillon will be operational when the new Welcome Pavilion opens in autumn 2023.