History & Ceremonial Way

La Fabrique de la paroisse Notre-Dame de Montréal – the building council of Montreal’s Notre-Dame parish – has owned and operated Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery since 1854. Created on property purchased from Dr. Pierre Beaubien, the new cemetery was a response to growing demand at a time when the old Saint-Antoine Cemetery (near the present Dominion Square) had become too small to serve Montreal’s rapidly increasing population.

In the second half of the 19th century, the cemetery gained several monumental structures that remain prominent features today: the main entrance gate, the cross adorned with hourglasses, the charnel house and the Administration building. To promote sales of cemetery plots, monuments were erected to the memory of the Patriots and to Ludger Duvernay, founder of the Saint-Jean Baptiste Society.

Between 1900 and 1945, a few utilitarian structures were added to make the complex more functional: a greenhouse near the Administration building, as well as stables and service facilities on the north side of the property.

From 1945 to 1960, the north side was turned into a full-scale service area. A vast complex of greenhouses was built and the existing service buildings were expanded. Additional greenhouses were constructed near the Administration building, where flowers were sold until they were closed and dismantled in 2003.

In 1957, the historic Jarry-Henrichon house was moved to its present location near the cemetery’s Decelles Street entrance. Built between 1751 and 1781, the house had long belonged to the Lacombe family, whose members lived in it from 1802 to 1907.

In 1976, a crematorium and chapel complex was erected next to the service area. Two years later, the Notre Dame Mausoleum, the cemetery’s first, was built at the far end of the north-east section. During the 1980s, five more mausoleums were built along the mountainside: John Paul II (1980), Saint Francis (1982), Marguerite-Bourgeoys (1983), The Pietà (1985) and Saints Peter and Paul (1989).

In 1994, the charnel house beside the main entranceway was converted into a mausoleum and a reflection pool was added. This seventh mausoleum was dedicated to Saint Clare of Assisi.

In 1996, development of the cemetery grounds adjoining the former charnel house was completed with the construction of a ten-floor mausoleum, named in honour of Saint Marguerite d’Youville.

In 2007, the garage and greenhouses in the old service area were cleared to make way for the peaceful, contemplative green spaces surrounding the new Esther Blondin Mausoleum.

In 2008, opening of the Esther-Blondin Mausoleum.

In 2010, opening of the Eulalie-Durocher Mausoleum.

In 2011, reintroduction of the Ceremonial Way, As called for in the Master Plan and approved in 2005, we are currently building the new Ceremonial Way. This project has received all necessary authorizations: from the City of Montreal, the borough of Côte-des-Neiges/Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, and the Department of Cultural Affairs, Communications and the Status of Women.

The work is expected to be completed in June 2012.


Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery is the largest cemetery in Canada and the third-largest in North America.

In their effort to balance French classicism with a feel for nature – a late 18th-century esthetic movement influenced by the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau – the first Notre-Dame-des-Neiges architects sought inspiration for the style and layout of the new cemetery in the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.

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