Happy Birthday, Grand Séminaire!

Date June 30, 2015 Author Alexia Jensen Categories News


The Canadian International Organ Competition is collaborating for the second year in a row with the Festival des couleurs de l'orgue français. Concerts take place every Sunday at the Grand Séminaire, which is celebrating the 175th anniversary of its foundation this year. Despite being around for nearly two centuries, few people have been through the doors of the Seminary: here's your chance to take a peak into the mysterious Grand Séminaire.

Grand Séminaire

In the heart of Downtown Montreal is a Grand Seminary that actually lives up to the descriptor in its name. Spanning an area of nearly 3 blocks, it is surrounded by trees, gardens, and most importantly: many centuries worth of history. Founded in 1840, it is currently celebrating its 175th anniversary with several events throughout the year, with a focus on early November which is when the Seminary was officially founded. The CIOC is holding several organ recitals at the Grand Seminary in October as part of the 2015 Festival, so make sure to drop by for a unique experience during this very important year in the history of the Seminary! 

Early creation of the Grand Seminary

It began as a modest school of theology at Bishop Jean-Jacques Lartigue’s house. His successor – Bishop Ignace Bourget, however, saw fit to continue the institution under Saint Sulpice, and he signed a concordat concerning the formation of priests with Friar Joseph-Vincent Quiblier, the Superior of the Seminary of Saint Sulpice, and from there it went on to become the Major Seminary of Montreal.

Timeline of the Grand Seminary leading up to its current status

Since 1840, the Grand Seminary has been moved around, been renamed, and has seen changes in curriculum many times over. While it is currently residing on Sherbrooke Street West, it began in the east wing of a former College of Montreal building on St. Paul Street. It started with 18 seminarians but after a few years, it reached 50 students and eventually had to move to a newly constructed building on Sherbrooke in 1857.

In 1878, it became a Faculty of Theology affiliated with Laval University in Quebec. In 1925, it received its status as a recognized School of Theology. In 1967, the Grand Seminary moved to the new campus, and went on to become the Institute of Theological Formation of Montreal in 1988, and it is how we know it to be to this day.

Historical ponds from the 1600s

The Seminary is by a basin that has a history of its own to offer. It consists of three ponds, all of which were constructed before 1840. The first of them was built as early as 1675, and it appears on the plans of the ground of 1694. It was 60 by 30 feet. The second pond also appears on the 1694 plans and was probably built around 1685. This pond is photographed with ducks bathing in it on the Grand Seminary of Montreal website, but it is said that this pond was abandoned in the early 18th century. The third pond was built between 1731 and 1747 and was also neglected for around half a century after which a prosecutor of Saint-Sulpice, Antoine Alexis Molin, undertook to restore the area.

Festival des couleurs de l'orgue concerts will be taking place every Sunday at 3pm throughout the month of October.

Want to hear the organ? Here is titular organist Yves-G. Préfontaine playing at the French Guilbault-Thérien organ of the Grand Séminaire Chapel.



Written by Maheen Yacoob



Maheen is studying English and Chemistry at McGill University. She is an avid science fiction fan, board game aficionado, and amateur drummer, with one weakness: she cannot whistle. Nevertheless, she is professionally adept at making all things work.



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