Birks Building

3520 University Street
Montreal, Quebec
H3A 2A7
Tel: 514-398-4121
Fax: 514-398-6665

Birks Heritage Chapel

The two storey, galleried chapel seats about 150. It originally reflected the interdenominational nature of the original colleges, and the ecumenical intention of Divinity Hall, now the Birks Building, home of the School of Religious Studies. Its more recent function reflects the pluralism of the campus, including public lectures, interfaith wedding services, memorial services for members of the academic community, and other special events.

The chapel windows were designed by C.W. Kelsey. A carved wood tracery screen separates the narthex from the nave and supports the gallery which is entered from the third floor. The ceiling is groined wood vaulting, and the floors are stone slabs, with coloured marble and terrazzo in the chancel. The clerestory windows depict the crests of British and Canadian universities: on the right side, facing the altar, Dublin, St. Andrews, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Manchester, London, Cambridge, Oxford; on the left, Dalhousie, British Columbia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Queen's, Toronto, McGill. Above the altar rises a large and beautiful stained-glass window depicting the Ascension. 

The hangings in the chancel area were designed by the Quebec artist Norman Laliberté and installed in the chapel in 1979. The three cloth reredos panels display Christian symbols of the cross and the dove. Five painted wooden panels surround the altar in Laliberté's glowing colours and First Nations motif. At centre front is Christ with his Chi Rho symbol (the first two letters of the Greek word christos); to the left, the symbols of the evangelists John and Matthew, an eagle and a man; and to the right, the symbols of Luke and Mark, an ox and a lion. On the left side of the altar table is a painting of the Jesse Tree, and on the right, Adam and Eve on either side of the tree of knowledge.

Also to be noted among the chapel's furnishings are, in the right-hand aisle facing the altar, a memorial Roll of Honour, a framed text from Norman Laliberté expressing his inspiration in the altar designs, and an icon of St. Paul on the Areopagus presented in 1949 by the late Arch-bishop Damaskinos of Athens in recognition of post-World War II assistance rendered by Canada to Greece. On the central column on the left-hand side is a marble stone from St. Columba's Isle of Iona, Scotland. On the south wall is displayed a Torah scroll presented by Rabbi H.J. Stern and Temple Emanu-El Congregation, and a memorial tablet to F. Cyril James, 1903–1973, and Principal 1940–1962. The Casavant organ was given as a memorial to Charles Gurd by his family. Mr. Gurd was Chairman of the Congregational College, 1911–1925.



Click here for information on booking the Birks Chapel (members of the McGill community only)

Visit the beautiful Birks Reading Room, a branch of the McGill library specializing in topics related to religious studies.