Notre-Dame-des-Neiges, in the heart of nature

Located on mount Royal, a classified heritage district, Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery has always developed and managed its activities with respect for its environment.

Thousands of trees

Since 2008, Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery has a Trees and Woodlands Management Plan. It contains certain commitments to enhance the landscape value of the site and its heritage contribution to mount Royal and Montréal. Here are some of the actions highlighted in the plan:

  • Maintaining green assets by planting at least one replacement tree for each of the felled trees;
  • Diversification of planted species;
  • An increase in the total number of trees on site within 10 years.

The cemetery's arboreal park also includes 5 woodlands on its territory: the Saint-Jean-Baptiste woodland, the Eastern woodland, the Central woodland, the Western woodland and the Northern woodland. Between the trees that compose them and the ornamental trees, it is estimated that the cemetery has nearly 13,500 trees, several of which are over 100 years old.

The most common species are silver maples, Norway maples, horse chestnuts and sugar maples. But there are also oaks, cherry trees, ash trees, spruces, elms, poplars, cedars weeping willows.

The notable trees

A list of a hundred remarkable trees has been established according to several criteria: their diameter, the estimated age, the general condition, the rarity of the species on the territory ... These trees give a certain added value to the cemetery's arboreal park. Here are some that stand out:

  • A 186 cm delloid poplar
  • A silver maple 254 years old
  • A 220 year old red oak
  • A 236-year-old sugar maple
  • White walnut (Butternut) and black maple are among the rarest species.

The cemetery gives special value to three poplars of the Notre-Dame section.

The Mount Royal site also has a list of its remarkable trees (French only), 7 of which are on the cemetery grounds.

red oak saint-francois and notre-dame mausoleums

The red oak in front of the Saint-François and Notre-Dame mausoleums.

An active wildlife

The Mount Royal forest is home to a diverse fauna. The gray squirrel, the chipmunk or the swiss, the groundhog, the raccoon and the striped skunk are the main representatives. Moreover, the presence of the cottontail rabbit and the red fox gives the place a rustic character still appreciated in urban areas.

Several bird species also visit this privileged environment. At different times of the year, we can see buntings, red-winged blackbirds, goldfinches, American crows, American kestrels, common starlings, bobolinks, swallows, back-capped tits, sparrows, mockingbirds, northern orioles, warblers, woodpeckers, killed plovers, tailed blackbirds, white-breasted nuthatches and eastern kingbirds.

Wildlife Management Plan

Sustainable development and natural heritage go hand in hand at the cemetery. It is in this perspective that a wildlife management plan has been adopted. It aims to preserve, develop and enhance the diversity of wildlife that visits the cemetery's territory while limiting the nuisance that some animals may cause due to their abundance or behavior.

Therefore, our management plan has three areas of intervention aimed at maintaining a balance between a place where burial and commemoration activities are held and a place inhabited by wildlife.

  • Area 1: Conservation and enhancement of wildlife diversity by respecting and protecting it through all our activities.
  • Area 2: Spotlight on our wildlife by creating and distributing informative tools for our workers and visitors.
  • Area 3: The management of wildlife issues through interventions to ensure an harmonious coexistence between wildlife and cemetery activities.

Biodiversity

Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery is a unique place of reflection and meditation that shelters close to one million deceased on Mount Royal. Its tree park and topography are rich and diversified. Certain development practices raise concerns about environmental protection and the enhancement of biodiversity. The Cemetery wants to reduce the environmental footprint of its activities.

Over the past 30 years, customer values and choices have evolved, as have their expectations regarding the environment. Over the next few years, we will have to review our development and maintenance practices, in order to :

  • Reduce fossil fuel energy consumption related to operations
  • Reduce noise pollution created by the operation of certain tools
  • Improve management of residual materials
  • Reduce consumption of salt and abrasive products
  • Reduce water consumption
  • Adapt site development and maintenance practices

Landscape design

THE CHOICE OF INFLUENTIAL ARCHITECTS

The first architects of Notre-Dame-des-Neiges were inspired by the layout of the Père-Lachaise cemetery in Paris to establish a balance between the classical spirit and an ode to nature – a widespread movement by the influential philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. It is therefore a monumental romantic cemetery with winding paths lined with trees, designed by two influential architects.

Henri-Maurice Perrault drew the plans and implemented the winding, irregular paths that give the cemetery a romantic atmosphere. Perreault was the nephew of John Ostell, then Montréal's most famous architect. In 1877-78, Ostell designed the first buildings of the cemetery including the charnel house (which today has been transformed and named Mausoleum Sainte-Claire d'Assise), the chapel and the current Administrative Pavillion.

Another famous architect who left his mark on the cemetery, is Victor Bourgeau who would contribute to the construction of the original entrance doors (they were modified in 1926) and the construction of two adjoining houses. Bourgeau is also known for his magnificent work inside the Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal.

A CEMETERY ON THE MOUNTAIN

The development of a cemetery on a mountain has a certain importance, besides the evident advantage of the surface area. In the Catholic religion, the mountain gives hope of the promised resurrection. Notre-Dame-des-Neiges offers a climate of tranquility, meditation and contemplation, in the heart of nature.

The landscape that makes up the cemetery is complex and stands out in three distinct areas:

  • The plain: The main entrance on Côte-des-Neiges is a perfectly axial composition representative of Catholic cemeteries: a central cross, two golden angels on its sides on an oval field surrounded by trees. This axis goes up to the imposing facade of the first charnel house of the cemetery (present day mausoleum Sainte-Claire d'Assise).
  • The plateau: At the top of the slope of the plain, there is what constitutes the second zone, arranged in a rectilinear pattern. The Notre-Dame-de-la-Résurrection chapel and the Administrative pavilion is located there. The layout of rows of trees along the path is in line with the cemeteries of monumental tradition. The plateau also leads up to the peaks of Outremont and Montreal.
  • The summit: It is distinguished by a typical layout of the tradition of New France, a path from the cross that goes up to the Calvary, which many historians at the time have compared to the "sacred mountain", a metaphor ot the Christian soul who seeks to get closer to God.

ESSENTIAL BUILDINGS AND A CEREMONIAL ENTRANCE

During the first 50 years, the foundations and the initial sections were developed, and the important buildings such as the Notre-Dame-de-la-Resurrection chapel and the Administrative pavilion were built. From 1875 to 1900, changes in society and the growth of Montreal lead to the creation of sections reserved for cultural communities, and the installation of majestic monuments.

Before the monumental door made by Victor Bourgeau was installed, the entrance door of the cemetery had a temporary first-version. This one, entirely built in stone, deteriorated and was partly demolished in 1926. According to the plans of Faucher, Aubertin, Brodeur, Gauthier architects, it was only in 1998, that the current door was installed, and embellished with a metal hoop. This door became part of the cemetery's signature aesthetic. 

In the decades that followed, the construction of the mausoleums shaped the landscape, as well as the transformation of the first charnel house in mausoleum Sainte-Claire-d'Assise (see photo at the top of the page), in 1994. Located straight ahead after the main entrance on Côte-des-Neiges road, the pond added in front majestically welcomes visitors.This place is now called the Commemoration Place. The choice to integrate water in this gathering place is not insignificant. As a matter of fact, the movements of the water jets draw the eye to the mausoleum, and the soothing sound complements meditation and serenity. Like the mountain, the significance of water in Christianity is also important: it means eternal life. "But whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the WATER I give him will become in him a fount of water springing up to the eternal life." John 4:14.

These achitectural achievements and the landscape developpment of the cemetery have always illustrated the determination of the Fabrique de la paroisse Notre-Dame de Montréal, to preserve this unique place and modernize it, in line with its its mission and its environment.

cote-des-neiges entrance

The entrance on Côte-des-Neiges road

preserving wildlife

Help us preserve wildlife and ensure harmonious cohabitation.

  • By feeding without the intervention of humans, animals develop appropriate behaviors essential to their survival. Human foods do not suit them.
  • Feeding the animals contributes to the overabundance of some species. This situation is detrimental to the natural ecological balance that contributes to the preservation of the beautiful faunal diversity.
  • By losing their natural fear of humans, they can annoy visitors.

Thank you for observing the rule of not feeding the animals and follow these two tips:

  • Enjoy wild animals from a distance.
  • Keep your pet at home.

Emerald ash borer maintenance and control

Each year, several employees work on the 340 acres of pathways, trees, lawns and landscaping of the cemetery. More than 500 arboreal interventions are carried out, from felling to pruning, tree planting, bracing, etc.

In addition to the prevention and special care given to trees infested by insects or problematic diseases, Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery has been particularly active in the fight against emerald ash borer since 2010. All trees are treated or monitored rigorously.

In addition, a recent project has allowed us to transform those that could not be saved into ecological urns and magnificent wooden benches (now installed in our mausoleums), thanks to the good care of the circular economy company Bois Public.