At the Heart of the Sanctuary

On December 17, 2017, Saint Joseph’s Oratory celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Crypt Church, where Saint Brother André so often prayed, kneeled down behind the great statue of Saint Joseph, and which remains today a place at the heart of the sanctuary.
Saint Brother André’s presence, his spirit of welcome and his prayers made the Crypt Church a choice place to live out a devotion to Saint Joseph. A continuing tradition at the Oratory: in order to reach the Crypt Church, many pilgrims climb the 100 wooden steps on their knees, in a gesture of prayer.
Please find below a few of the Crypt Church’ most striking works and significant features, as well as historical landmarks.



By Claude Grou,CSC
Rector, Saint Joseph’s Oratory

Arches and Chapels…

The Crypt Church pleases with its oak woodwork, its light fixtures, and ornate arches in its ceiling. An edifice of sober lines, it is appointed with many side chapels and an organ loft. The church, as part of an immense architectural ensemble, was built according to the plans of Dalbé Viau and Alphonse Venne in a neoclassical style. The facade is constructed of stone blocks coming from Deschambault.

Beginning of the construction: 1915
Inauguration: December 16, 1917
Consecration: August 9, 1943
Length: 63.39 m (208 ft)
Width: 36.5 m (120 ft)
Height: 13.1 m (42 ft)
Seating capacity: 1000 persons

To Behold in the Crypt Church

The statue of saint Joseph in the center of the sanctuary was carved from Carrara marble by the Italian artist, A. Giacomini, in 1917. It measures 2.75 m (9 ft) high.

Stained-glass windows evoking the life of Saint Joseph were created in 1919 by Perdriau and O’Shea.

The statue of Our Lady of the Assumption, on the left side altar, was a gift by Acadian benefactors in 1921.

The Sanctuary area was remodelled in 1966 using the designs of the artist/decorator Jean-Charles Charuest.

The tabernacle on the right side altar was designed by the artist Jordi Bonet in 1966.

The large crucifix is frequently venerated by believers who pray there while touching Jesus’ feet.

A fresco by the artist Henri Charlier surmounts the central door, depicting the death of Saint Joseph. Many years ago, Brother André’s tomb was located just beneath this fresco.

Statue of Saint Brother André in the Crypt Church at Saint Joseph's Oratory, November 2017

The glass base beneath the statue of Saint Brother André contains slips of paper on which are written prayer intentions which are deposited there by pilgrims.

The Casavant organ was built in 1917.


Orgue Casavant dans la crypte de l'Oratoire Saint-Joseph


By David Bureau
Archivist,Roland-Gauthier Archive and Documentation Center

A few Historical Landmarks

1916 - Construction of the Crypt Church begins.
1917 - Laborers working on the construction of the Crypt Church, which will be inaugurated on December 16, 1917.
1920 - Interior Decoration of the Crypt Church.
Circa 1920 - Construction of the Crypt Church is finally completed.
Circa 1920 - Pilgrimage of the ACJC to the Crypt Church.
1925 - Pilrgims travel to the Crypt Church in great numbers to celebrate Labor Day.
1937 - The body of brother André, deceased on January 6 1937, is exposed in the Crypt Church.
1943 - The Crypt Church is consecrated by Mgr Joseph Charbonneau, archbishop of Montreal.
Circa 1950 - The Blessing of Fiancés; a Christmas tradition.
1969 - The Crypt Church's sanctuary is now reinstated, following Vatican II.
1984 - Pope John Paul II arriving in the Crypt Church.
2010 - On October 17, the official canonization ceremony was broadcast from Rome.




Excerpt from the ORATORY magazine
September-December 2017 − Vol 91 No 3.


Discover the Crypt Church in its historical context by exploring the Oratory’s timeline.