The very first bike route posted on Ottawa Velo Outaouais was to a little known ship wreck in Gatineau. Time to re-visit the ride to see how they, (both the route and the wreck), have survived the vagaries of time. Although the last few years have been rough on the route, with Jacques Cartier Park being closed off to recooperate from that wacky topiary festival a few years back, and the boardwalk along the river blocked for repairs, I am pleased to announce that all is clear. Here we go!
Our ride begins in Centretown, beside the Chinatown arch. Head north along Cambridge St N which eventually veers right to become Laurier Ave before arriving at Bronson Avenue. The rest of this ride is entirely along bike lanes or paths. Follow the route indicated on the map to get across the Ottawa River over the Portage Bridge.
Once across the bridge, turn right along the Voyageurs Pathway where you will experience the most picturesque view of Parliament Hill as you ride down towards the waters edge.
Continue along the Voyageurs Pathway through Jacques Cartier Park, and then along the aforementioned boardwalk that floats above the shoreline.
Continue along Voyageurs that weaves it’s way for a nice stretch until you happen upon a gravel path leading off to the right. Turn onto this gravel path. If you pass the big green NCC sign, you’ve gone too far.
There are two right turns off this gravel path, the first of which leads to a very nice lookout across the river. Definitely worth visiting if you have the time, but you want the next exit that’ll get you to where we wanna go, which runs along the Lac Leamy discharge into the Ottawa River. Further along this path, closer to the Ottawa River you will discover THE SHIPWRECK!
According to this source, this ship was originally launched in 1959. In the 70’s it was converted into a a disco-casino pleasure cruise, then in 1976 into a floating cottage. It caught fire in the 80’s and waspulled to this location. So, thar she lies…. for the rest of us to enjoy!
This summer someone has been using the wreck to moore a sad little white power boat, conveniently blocked by shrubbery in the above photo.
Heading back to Ottawa, one may retrace the route that got you to the wreck, or you can continue north via the blue line on the above map. If you choose to take this route, which is really great and follows paths the entire way, I highly reccomend downloading the above map and checking your progress via GPS as you will encounter many merges and turns with minimal directional signage.
Annie is heading to Carleton to do her MBA – way to go Annie! The cost of parking at Carleton is NUTS and vehicular access is a dog’s breakfast and will be for the next couple of years as they go about expanding the O-Train through the campus. So, with these considerations in mind, along with all the other bonus benefits that come with pedal power, biking is a very appealing option. Here is a 13km ride which takes around 45 minutes at a leisurely pace.
Our ride begins at the corner of Rothbury Crescent and Provender Avenue.
Head south on Provender. Just as it bends left, continue straight along a concrete pathway that weaves up to Foxview Place.
Turn left and continue south for a short distance and hop onto the bike lane heading west along Montreal Road.
Once arrived at the Aviation Parkway, cross over to the opposite corner.
Follow the Aviation Pathway for a short distance, then follow the sign pointing towards Clarke Avenue.
Ride through this quiet neighbourhood, first along Clarke, then Claude St, and finally Mutual St.
This brings you to St Laurent Boulevard. St Laurent is a busy multi-lane artery often filled with speeding traffic. Ride north for a short block to the lights across to Guy St if traffic is light.
Alternatively, if traffic is heavy and you don’t feel safe you can walk your bike along the sidewalk to the lights at MacArthur. On the return trip, which I have indicated by an orange line on the map for this section, there is a bike lane from MacArthur to Mutual Street heading north. Why the city didn’t extend this bike lane as far as the lights at Guy St is baffling, especially since it leads straight to Rideau High School and would help encourage student cycling.
Follow Guy St then May St, which are quiet residential streets, to the segregated bike lane along MacArthur. These bike lanes were introduced just a few years ago and are a great addition to the east/west bike infrastructure.
Ride along MacArthur all the way to it’s western end, then cross the lights at North River Road through the parking lot that links to the Rideau River Eastern Pathway.
Follow this pathway to the Adawe Bridge that crosses over the Rideau River.
Continue straight heading west along Somerset St East. There aren’t bike paths along Somerset, but instead there is a ‘road diet’ whereby a car is expected to use the shared centre lane when passing a cyclist. Not sure if this is the best solution along most roads but I find in this instance it works quite well.
Unfortunately the road diet dissapears for a couple of short sections heading up the hill to King Edward Ave. Hélas, another example of Ottawa’s tendency towards missing bike links. Sidewalk it if you don’t feel safe.
Cross the lights at King Edward and head through the Ottawa U campus along Marie Curie.
Ottawa U deserves kudos for implementing some pretty good bike infrastructure over the last few years. Continue straight where Marie Currie ends.
This gets you to a funky twisty path down and under the O-Train tracks to Colonel By Drive.
The cross lights at Colonel By Drive lead you to the Rideau Canal Eastern Pathway. Turn left onto this pathway that hugs the canal.
Continue along the pathway past Dow’s Lake all the way to the Hartwell Locks.
Once arrived at the locks cross Colonel By Drive onto the Carleton University campus.
The Ottawa Tool Library has re-opened for curbside pick-up at their new location, 877A Boyd Avenue. YEAH!! Here is a bike route to get there from Centretown.
The Ottawa Tool Library is a great resource for those who wish to borrow tools for all sorts of jobs! They’ve got an extensive inventory of items to choose from including a fine selection of bike tools. They also have a great Wike bike flatbed trailer members can borrow to transport big items that won’t fit into your panniers.
This 6km route begins along the bike path at the corner of Albert Street and City Centre Avenue on the north side of Albert.
Head west along the bike path.
Just before O-Train’s Bayview Station the path dips down to the right then continues west.
Continue straight until you reach Bayview Station Road. Turn left under the bridge then right along the bike path that continues west along Scott Street.
Follow the path along Scott St all the way to Churchill Ave.
Scott St ends at Churchill but the path continues on the other side beside the transitway.
Continue along the path for a short distance as far as Roosevelt Avenue, then turn left onto Roosevelt.
Follow Roosevelt all the way to it’s southern end where it veers right.
Immediately after Roosevelt veers right, turn left onto Cole Avene and follow it to Carling Avenue.
On the opposite side of Carling Ave, Cole continues as Clyde Avenue. Clyde is a busy road with trucks and traffic. That’s because it is one of the few roads in this area that passes under the Queensway. Segregated bike lanes should be installed along Clyde as it is an important link for cyclists to communities south of the Queensway, as well as to the Experimental Farm Recreational Pathway. Unfortunately it’s present busy and crumbling condition makes it less than desireable for cycling.
As such, once across Carling this route recommends walking your bike along the sidewalk a short half block west and turning left onto Campbell Avenue, versus riding down Clyde.
Ride down Campbell as far as it goes to Dobbie Street.
Turn right onto Dobbie which will bring you straight to the Tool Library!
There aren’t any bike racks installed on site or anywhere close by. This shouldn’t be an issue while the library is operating in curbside pick-up mode, however one of their priorities is to acquire and install a bike rack as soon as possible. As a not-for-profit group The Ottawa Tool Library relies heavily on donations of tools and materials, so if anyone has a lead on a bike rack please let them know via this link.
If anyone needs a bike route to the Ottawa Tool Library from anywhere else in town please send me a starting cross street at OttawaVeloOutaouais@gmail.com I’ll figure out a route and post it here.
Here is a 12 km ride almost entirely along bike paths that visits three fine examples of waterfalls, starting at Hog’s Back Falls and ending at the Rideau Falls, with a stop at the Chaudière Falls along the way. I have also included a 12km return route along the Rideau River Eastern Pathway back to Hog’s Back Falls for those who want to do a loop.
Following the route proposed on the above map brings you to the Chaudière Falls, named so by Samuel de Champlain who noted its form ressembled a boiling chaudière, or cauldron. Lot’s more on the history of the Chaudière Falls can be found here.
This photo was taken from a viewing deck one can access by bike.
Our last stop is Rideau Falls. Rideau is the french word for curtain, describing the distinct form the water takes as it spills from the Rideau River into the Ottawa River. There are interpretive panels on the west side of the falls that delves into their history.
If you choose to head back along the Rideau River Eastern Pathway, which is one of my favourite rides in the city, be warned that the section across from Carleton University is sometimes flooded in the Spring.
The history of ice hockey has deep roots in the national capital region, dating back to the 1800’s. This bike tour visits a few sites around town that commemorate the development of this popular winter sport.
We begin at the north-west corner of Gladstone and Bay. Here you will find a polished black stone pedestal commemorating the location of Dey’s Skating Rink , built in 1896 and considered to be the first Canadian hockey arena. It was twice destroyed: once in 1902 by a terrible windstorm, and then by fire in 1920. Here in 1903 the Ottawa Hockey Club defeated the Montreal Victoria’s to bring Ottawa it’s first Stanley Cup championship.
The story of the Stanley Cup is expanded upon at our second stop on the tour. Head north along the Bay Street bike path, then right along Sparks Street which has no motorised vehicular traffic.
At the eastern end of Sparks Street you will find an installation titled Lord Stanley’s Gift, the focal point of which is a huge abstraction of the silver punch bowl donated by Canada’s 6th Governor General, Lord Stanley, who had written, ‘ I have for some time been thinking that it would be a good thing if there were a challenge cup which should be held from year to year by the champion hockey team in the Dominion‘. This award was first presented in 1893 to to the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association.
The tall columnar base of the modern Stanley Cup is not included on this display. this base, consisting of stacked silver bands with inscribed names of winning team players, was not part of the original cup donated by Lord Stanley. The bands also get replaced with more recent winning team players names.
Our third stop on the tour is in Gatineau on the corner of Jacques Cartier park across the street from the Canadian Museum of History. Here you will find a HUGE bronze sculpture titled ‘Never Give Up’ of Maurice Richard, legendary player of the Montreal Canadiens from 1942 – 1960.
Getting there from Sparks Street is a little tricky by bike. I suggest walking your bike along the sidewalk the few hundred yards to the bi-directional bike path along Mackenzie Avenue that only starts heading north at the corner of Mackenzie and Wellington (see red line on map) as there is no safe bike infrastructure between these two points. Once on the bike path head north along Mackenzie and then turn left onto the bike path along Murray street that transitions to the bike path over the Alexandra Bridge. Once on the other side, turn right across at the lights where you will find the sculpture of Maurice Richard on the opposite side.
Richard took on a strong symbolic role throughout Quebec in the period leading up to the Quiet Revolution. The Richard Riot broke out in Montreal when he was suspended for the remainder of the 1954-55 season by commisioner Clarence Campbell after a violent on ice confrontation. He was further popularised in Roch Carrier’s book The Hockey Sweater and was the first Quebec non-politician to be given a state funeral.
Our final destination on the tour is on the grounds of Rideau Hall at the Governor General’s skating rink, however this destination will have to wait until the threat of Covid is in the past. I have indicated this route with a purple line on the map and will elaborate on it once the rink is again open to the public. Once it is here you will find a great exhibit (designed by Carla Ayukawa of Evolution Design) on the roles various Governor Generals have played in promoting winter sports. Particular to hockey, there is information on the rink itself, the Stanley Cup, as well as the Clarkson Cup, donated by Governor General Adrienne Clarkson, first awarded to the Canadian national women’s hockey team in 2006.
James Strutt (1924 – 2008) was one of Ottawa’s most successful Modernist architects. He was called upon to design many innovative buildings for clients throughout the National Capital Region. Along with office towers, private residences and public facilities he also designed a number of churches throughout the 1950’s and 60’s for Ottawa’s expanding mid-century suburbs . This bike tour visits these churches, identified by the red markers on the attached map. The blue markers show the location of other buildings he designed including The Strutt House his family home he built on the edge of Gatineau Park. It has recently been restored to it’s original design and has been preserved as an interpretive centre dedicated to the study of his works. A bike route to the Strutt House from Ottawa can found here. Clicking on a blue marker will bring up an image of each building.
The orange markers are buildings that unfortunately are not visible from points accessible by bike. The grey markers are those I have yet to visit but I will update the map with photos once I do.
We begin at the Bells Corners United Church. In 1960 the decision was made to build a new church to replace its predecessor on Robertson Road (now a spa) as it could no longer accomodate the growing number of parishioners. It was completed in 1965.
Our second stop is St Paul’s Presbyterian Church on Woodroffe Avenue. This smaller, more intimate house of worship, was an earlier design, completed in 1958. The wooden boxes on the roofs were not part of the original design nor obviously were the solar panels.
Cyclists riding along the Experimental Farm Pathway will have noticed the distinct copper clad building just off the path at Mailand Avenue. This is the Trinity United Church designed by Strutt in 1963. The form was supposedly inspired by Noah’s ark.
The dominating wavy form Strutt designed for St Peters Anglican Church on Merivale Road (now the St. Teklehaimanot Ethiopian Orthodox Church) was achieved by using a modern concrete spray. It was then clad in cedar shingles, similar to the one in Bells Corners, but since replaced with metal cladding.
St Marks Anglican Church on Fisher Avenue is from 1954. A number of modifications have been made to the original building but there is a great slide show with sketches and descriptions of the original design along with pictures of the church in construction that you can view by clicking here.
St Paul’s Anglican Church (now the Ottawa East Seventh-Day Adventist Church) in Overbrook is tucked in between Presland and Prince Albert Street. Strutt designed this one in 1963. Originally there was a small cross at the peak of the taller roof.
Our final stop is the Rothwell United Church in Cardinal Heights. Completed in 1961, it has changed little from Strutt’s original design.
A few more details on the design of these churches can be found here.
David Ewart was Canada’s Chief Dominion Architect from 1896 to 1914. During his prolific career he designed numerous buildings across the country, four of which are still standing here in Ottawa – the Royal Canadian Mint on Sussex Drive, the Connaught Building on Mackenzie Street, the Victoria Memorial Museum (now the Museum of Nature), and the Dominion Observatory on the grounds on the Central Experimental Farm. This bike tour visits all four.
We begin at the Royal Canadian Mint located just beside the National Gallery of Canada. The Mint was built to function as a centre of the country’s wealth at a time when Canada was flexing its growing monetary independance. Ewart applied details reminscent of medieval castles and late gothic styling over a Beaux-Arts-inspired design.
To get to our next stop, follow the bike lane along Sussex Drive past the National Gallery. The bike lane gets pretty tight at the corner of St Patrick and Sussex so I cut across the broad plaza infront of the giant spider to get to the bike crossing .
Double cross the intersection to eventually get over to the bi-directional bike path that runs along Mackenzie Avenue infront of the American embassy.
You will need to weave between two sets of huge bollards set in the middle of the path that are meant to protect the embassy. They are a bit tricky to negotiate. Just beyond the second set of bollards is our next stop – The Connaught Building.
The Connaught Building was designed to house the first Canadian archives, reflecting the nation’s growing sense of Canadian identity. It was designed in part to meet Prime Minister Laurier’s vision for an architecturally coherent image for the capital. Ewart again used Beaux-Arts inspired principles as seen in its symmetrically organized facade and central main entry. To this he applied a combination of detailing from the Victorian Gothic style, as seen in the Parliament buildings, and large manors built during the Tudor period.
The interpretive panel visible in the bottom right of the above photo describes David Ewart and his work within the context of this incredibly productive period of building design in the capital. Definitely worth a quick read.
Continue along the bike lane to where it ends at Wellington Street. There is an advance bike signal at this intersection that allows cyclists to cut diagonally across Wellington to the ramp that leads down to Colonel By Drive. At the next set of lights hop onto the Rideau Canal Eastern Pathway.
Ride under the Corkstown pedestrian/bike bridge, then circle up and over the bridge to get to the other side of the canal.
Once across Queen Elizabeth Drive access MacLaren Street via a short jog along Somerset and The Driveway. MacLaren is a quiet street that you can follow west as far as O’Connor Street. Turn left onto the bi-directional segregated bike path along O’Connor and follow it to McLeod Street where on the left you will see our next stop – the Museum of Nature. McLeod Street is a one way heading west so to get to the front of the museum get on the path at the corner of O’Connor and McLeod that goes through the park past the wooly mammoth.
The Museum of Nature was originally called the Victoria Memorial Museum in honour of Queen Victoria who’s reign ended in 1901. This was Ewart’s most ambitious building for the capital, once again using the Tudor Gothic style. Unfortunately the instability of the soil on which it was built required that the original central tower be reduced by one level to keep it from sinking in to the ground. The glass tower now occupying the space was added in a more recent major renovation to the building. The fascinating history of the museum is explained in extensive detail here and here.
Next get back on the O’Connor bike lane and follow it under the Queensway and on through the Glebe where it switches sides of the street and disappears/reappears in a few spots.
O’Connor ends at Fifth Avenue so turn left onto the bike lane that brings you the signalised intersection across Queen Elizabeth Driveway. Once across, turn right onto the Rideau Canal Western Pathway and follow it all the way to Dow’s Lake where it ends at Preston Street.
At Preston cross over to the opposite corner of the intersection to the path that continues up along Prince of Wales Drive.
At the next set of lights, which is a pedestrian crosswalk towards the arboretum, turn right along a short paved driveway that becomes a worn path leading up a hill towards Birch Drive.
Continue straight along Birch Drive, then right on Maple Drive to our final destination the Dominion Observatory.
Designed in a Romanesque Revival style, the Observatory was used to establish coordinates for timekeeping that at the time could only come from an observatory. Fortunately this beautiful heritage building has survived any threats of demolition even though it ceased serving as an observatory in 1970.
More about the history of the Observatory including pictures of it during construction can be found here and here.
This is an update of a tour originally posted in 2018 which has since seen lots of changes to the original route.
Victoria Day is a distinctly Canadian holiday, celebrated on the Monday that lands between the 18th and 24th of May in honour of Queen Victoria who was born on May 24, 1819. One legend says she chose Ottawa as the nation’s capital by jabbing a hat pin into a spot on a map between Toronto and Montreal to stop the two cities from squabbling over which one deserved to be the capital. Another suggests her appreciation of landscape paintings of the region inspired her to choose this location. There may be an element of truth to both when she ultimately acted on the reccomendations of Sir John A MacDonald and made the final decision.
This ride starts on Parliament Hill where a statue of Queen Victoria was installed to commemorate her reign after she passed away in 1901. We then head along the Ottawa River and up through Gatineau Park to the small Chelsea Pioneers Cemetery where lies Private Richard Rowland Thompson, the sole Canadian recipient of a Queen’s Scarf of Honour, one of eight scarves crocheted by Queen Victoria in her final year of life.
At present the statue of Victoria located just to the west of the Centre Block on Parliament Hill can only be viewed from behind a wire fence as the site is being refurbished.
Exit Parliament Hill heading west and turn right after passing through the RCMP bollards.
The road hugging the western edge of Parliament Hill winds down through a series of parking lots to the edge of the Ottawa River Pathway.
Head left along the pathway and just before it goes under Wellington St take the ramp up to the Portage Bridge and cross the bridge over the river towards Quebec along the bi-directional bike path.
Once across the bridge follow the Voyageurs Pathway and circle under the Portage Bridge.Follow the path all the way to a fork just in front of a hydro site. Head right at the fork.
This leads to Rue Belleau, a quiet street with bike lanes leading to the intersection at Boulevard Alexander-Taché. The start of the Gatineau Park Pathway is immediately across this intersection.
Follow the beautiful Gatineau Park Pathway up through the park all the way to Chemin de la Mine.
Access Chemin de la Mine from the pathway and head north. Desperately needed bike lanes were added to most of Chemin de la Mine between the pathway and Notch Road in 2019.
The bike lane disappears for a stretch just before it ends at Notch Road. I’ve identified this by a red line on the map. I hope they add this missing section of bike lane as soon as possible.
Turn right onto Notch Road. It also has bike lanes that have been added within the last couple of years.
Turn right onto Chemin de Kingsmere then right onto the bike lane along Chemin Old Chelsea east heading over the Gatineau Autoroute, all the way to Route 105.
Turn left up the 105 and ride along the paved shoulder all the way to the small sign indicating the entrance to the Chelsea Pioneer Cemetery .
Down a short dirt road you will arrive at the small cemetery where lay the remains of Private Richard Rowland Thompson. He was awarded the Queen’s Scarf of Honour, for his actions in the Boer War Battle of Paardeberg where he saved the life of a wounded colleague and stayed with him throughout the heat of battle. He also attempted to save another as the fighting raged about him. The scarf is now at the Canadian War Museum.
Exiting the cemetery continue north along the 105 before turning onto Chemin Scott which also has bike lanes heading into Old Chelsea.
When pandemics aren’t around one can stop in for a very yummy brunch at the restaurant Tonique. If ice cream is what you crave La Cigale is right next door. On Victoria Day 2020 it was open for curbside orders.
Chemin Scott intersects Chemin Old Chelsea which you can hop back onto and retrace the route in reverse back to Ottawa.
Jeanne was asking about a bike route from Strathcona Park to the South Keys Shopping Centre. Here’s a map. Description and photo’s below.
Starting from the Strathcona Park side of the Adawe bridge River follow the path that runs along the Rideau River heading upstream.
The path continues along the river, going under the Queensway and up behind the University of Ottawa football field, before reaching the Hurdman Bridge. Cross over the Hurdman Bridge bike path beside the O-Train tracks.
Once over the bridge circle down to your left and continue heading upstream along the Rideau River Pathway.
Just after some big power line towers turn left onto a path which will bring you to a signalised crossing at Riverside Drive over to Frobisher Lane.
Frobisher Lane gets you over the transitway. Once over the transitway turn right at the ‘T’ which continues as Frobisher Lane. Travel along to the end of the road where it transitions into a wide concrete walkway. Keep riding along this walkway to the lights across Smyth Road.
Cross Smyth Road and continue through the Riverside Hospital campus. At the south-west corner of the campus there is a path that allows you to continue straight.
This path then curls to the left over the train tracks. Once over the tracks turn right onto Rodney Crescent.
This brings you to Pleasant Park Drive. Cross Pleasant Park to the path starting slightly to the right on the opposite side. This path merges into Lamira Street.
Continue straight through the round-about along Lamira. The section of this route with the most traffic is the short section along Lamira between the round-about and Bank Street but it usually isn’t too bad.
Head straight through the intersection at Bank onto Belanger Ave which is a quiet residential street. So is Clementine Blvd onto which you will turn left where Belanger ends.
Follow Clementine all the way to Brookfield Road. Turn right onto Brookfield. At the corner of Brookfield and Junction Ave head straight onto the Brookfield Path.
Brookfield Path winds its way down a curving wooden boardwalk under the train tracks, then up the other side. It’s quite a lovely little section.
At the top of the hill turn left onto the Sawmill Creek Pathway.
Sawmill Creek Pathway mostly runs alongside the Airport Parkway, occasionally veering further away, at one time following the transit way for a short spell.
Continue under the distinct pedestrian/bike bridge that goes over the Airport Parkway. Once on the other side take the second exit left off the pathway (the first exit is the ramp up over the bridge. Don’t take that) .
This short section of path will take you to a tunnel that goes under the O-Train tracks and an enclosed passageway that goes under the transitway. The confusing sign at the entrance of the enclosed section says no bikes allowed, but OC Transpo confirmed you can walk your bike through.
On the other side you will find yourself at the southern back corner of South Keys shopping centre. Follow the road around to the front.
A few Christmases ago I posted a bike tour of statues of Mary located throughout the capital. It is as an interesting exploration of various styles and forms in which this iconic figure has been rendered using materials capable of withstanding our varied and sometimes harsh climate. This tour builds upon the original route with a few additional stops.
There are many more statues of Mary scattered throughout the region that aren’t part of this tour. I have identified them on the map with yellow markers, and have included their descriptions at the end of this post. They are mostly found on the grounds of Catholic churches or institutions, but not exclusively.
Our first stop is on the north side of St-Vincent Hospital just inside the hospital grounds. This version of Mary is placed within a grotto of uncoursed random masonry with a smaller female figurine knelt in prayer below. It is a depiction of an apparitions 14-year old Bernadette Soubirous had in Lourdes France in 1848. Most statues associated with Catholic sites depict Mary in one of many Marian apparitions recognized by the church. This plaster casting of Mary is a replica of an original by Joseph-Hugues Fabisch sculpted in 1864, based on the description provided by Bernadette. During the apparition Mary instructed Bernadette to dig into the ground from which a spring of healing waters flowed. This association with healing explains may explain why this work was chosen for this site beside the hospital.
Second stop is at St-Patrick’s Basilica on Kent Street. Here she stands on a dome calmly gazing down with arms outstretched perched atop a fluted column. The bright white substrate in which she is rendered stands in stark contrast to the grey stone of St-Patrick’s Gothic Revival design. This pose derives from an apparition that the Catholic nun Catherine Labouré had in Paris in 1830. Based on Catherine’s description the image was reproduced as a devotional medal by the goldsmith Adrien Vachette and became known as the Miraculous Medal or the Medal of Our Lady of Grace. Mary stands on a globe representing the earth, crushing a rather distraught snake under her feet. The snake however was not included in Catherine’s original description of the vision. The medals became extremely popular when originally struck, and continues to be so amongst Catholics. Being such a recogniseable depiction of Mary, it was translated into sculptural form and is the most repeated pose in which Mary is depicted around town, as you will notice in the examples included at the end of this post.
Our next stop is infront of the Notre Dames Cathedral where Mary can be found holding infant Jesus way atop the peak of the front facade. Installed in 1866, it was sculpted out of wood by a Spanish artist named Carbona and is covered in gold leaf. Here the proportions and detailing are less delicate than other works seen on this tour, which works well relative to the width and height of the facade and the extended distance the sculpture is away from the viewer. Mary is also wearing a crown, popular in the Middle Ages as a representation of her as queen of heaven. The same arrangement can also be found at the top of the front portal of Laon Cathedral in France from the 12th and 13th century. She strikes the same pose on the front facade of Notre-Dame de Paris. The original reference of a sculpture depicting Mary in this pose was at the time of her first ever supernatural appearance in 40AD while she was still alive. As legend goes, St James was over in Spain having a tough time spreading the gospel so Mary appeared in a vision to cheer him on. The apparition instructed James to build a shrine in Zaragosa at the site of this miraculous vision. As Mary was transported to Spain by a bunch of angels, others angels proceeded to make a sculpture of her in Spain holding the baby Jesus and sporting a crown while standing atop a pillar. This event came to be referred to as Our Lady of the Pillar.
Continuing East into Vanier I rode up Pères-Blanc Avenue onto the grounds of what was once the scholasticate of the Society of the Missionaries of Africa but is now a park and interpretive facility run by the city. In the centre of a round-about at the end of the avenue there is a painted statue of Mary atop a stone pedestal. Mounted on the front of the pedestal is a bronze plaque that reads ‘NOTRE DAME D’AFRIQUE PRIEZ POUR NOUS A.D. 1955’ with an embossed outline of the African continent. The statue serves as a remnant of when the Pères-Blancs occupied this spot of land. The crown she is wearing is more massive than the medievel style seen on the cathedral. This larger crown is similar to the one she is sporting when depicted as Our Lady of Fatima, another vision reported in 1917 by three sheperd children in Fatima, Portugal. The Immaculate Heart of Mary is also included as a pendant. Her outer garment is blue, the colour most commonly associated with Mary. The historical use of Marian Blue as it is commonly referred to, is attributed to the great cost of Lapis Lazuli, a rare mineral used in the creation of blue pigment. Lapis Lazuli was more valuable than gold due to its rarity. As such blue was only used for the most precious applications, like in painted renderings of Mary’s clothes. Thus, the association stuck.
Our final stop is the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes also in Vanier. As the name suggests this is a direct reference to the original site in Lourdes France. Here we have Mary in a much larger grotto of stacked stone than the one at St Vincent Hospital accompanied once again by a praying Bernadette. The statue is painted to further ressemble the original in France. Attached to the walls of the grotto are mini plaques giving thanks for various cures that devotees have attributed to her. It’s quite the site. At the entrance there are placards filled with many more dedicated plaques installed throughout the years. Opposite and curling up the hill to the left of the grotto are a series of framed depictions in relief of the stations of the cross leading to a sculpture of the crucified Jesus. There are three of the stations that include Mary, easily identified dressed in blue.
There is a novella by the Irish writer Colm Toibin titled The Testament of Mary that I highly recommend. It gives a powerful humanised depiction of Mary told from her point of view near the end of her life. In this story she describes the events leading up to the crucifixion of her son. It provides a powerful contrast to the way Mary has come to be represented through various forms, in our instance sculptural. This novella was adapted for Broadway and was nominated for three Tony Awards, including Best Play.
The following are additional statues of Mary found throughout the region that aren’t part of the tour. Their locations are included on the above map and are identified as yellow markers.
Saint Charbel Parish – 245 Donald St (added Oct 2020)
Saint Charbel Parish is a Maronite Catholic church. Here she is depicted in the Miraculous Medal pose. Her cape and the globe on which she stands is painted a light Marian blue Some lovely gold trim has been added to her robe. The Immaculate Heart rests on her chest, something not described in the original pose. The land on which the church is built was purchased in 1994 so it’s relatively new. The location of the statue, immediately to the right of the entrance, seems to have been chosen from the outset, as the pedestal on which she stands is clad in the same stone facing as the building. This is striking as it breaks the strict symmetry of the churches facade.
Madonna Care Community – 1541 St. Joseph Boulevard (added Oct 2020)
This statue of the Madonna surrounded by juniper bushes is located just infront of the porte-cochère of an Orleans retirement home that opened in 2007 and it is one of a country wide chain called Sienna Senior Living. None of the other homes in this coporate chain have religious titles or symbols in their name so I’m not sure why this one does. Possibly because Orleans has a high Franco Ontarien Catholic population so the name and statue are used to appeal to this segment of population(?). Regardless, it seems to have no affiliation with a religious order. This rendering of Mary seems younger than how she is usually depicted. Photos of this statue were often shown in the news media when 30 residents died of the covid pandemic in early 2020 along with two staff workers.
Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church – 289 Spencer St (added Oct 2020)
St-François-de-Sales – Pointe Gatineau (added Nov 2020)
This large church is located on the north shore at the confluence of the Gatineau and Ottawa rivers. While the church is quite grand, Mary’s statue is proportionally very small, located way off to the left at the entrance to an attached building. Here she is once again depicted in the Miraculous Medal pose draped in blue, mounted on an elevated round concrete slab with lots of room for offerings from the faithful. The concrete slab is a relatively recent addition as evidenced by it’s modern form and confirmed by the blue insulation peaking out at the base. The custom of including Miraculous Medal statues of Mary outside most Catholic churches in the region appears to be tradition that started sometime well after the older churches were built.
St Anthony’s Church – Corner of Gladstone and Booth St (added Dec 2020)
Located to the right of the stairs leading up into St Anthony’s Catholic Church, this white marble rendering of Mary in her role as Our Lady of Sorrows has the associated seven swords piercing her heart. The swords themselves were sculpted seperately from the rest of the statue and glued into place with a thick brown adhesive. Four of the sword handles appear to have broken off. The white vinyl text on the polished stone base lists those individuals along with two funeral homes that donated funds to purchase this statue in 2013, on the 100th anniversary of the founding of the church. The text is English and Italian as this church serves the Little Italy community in which it is located.
St Monica Parish – 2080 Merivale Road (added Nov 2020)
What is striking about this statue is how disconnected it’s associated church in style and siting. St Monica Parish is a strict modernist design with minimal exterior embellishments, which was common to that period architectural style. In marked contrast, the statue of Mary is part of it’s own distinct landscaped installation of a much more haphazard design, located a generous distance behind and away from the church. Fronted by a semicircle of randomly cut flagstones on which two benches of different colours are placed, the statue is set amongst a pot-pourri of plantings and nick-nicks. Some are temporary, like the various flowers. Some are plantings, some are potted, and some are plastic like the one placed in Mary’s outstretched hand. Other embellishments are more permanent, such as the multicoloured stones set into a lump of concrete that forms the base of the statue. Many of these stones have words carved into each, such as ‘Prayer’, ‘Patience’, ‘Faith’, etc in a mix of fonts, most resembling Comic Sans. To the left of the statue there is an upright stone slab with fractured edges, engraved onto which are the words ‘In Memory of’ followed by a long list of names of various origins – Alfonso, Beaudoin, Connoly, Korezyn… etc. There is no space between the last name and the ground which makes it appear as if the list continues down into the soil. To the left of the statue a rosary constucted of sea shells hangs from a hanging planter frame. Someone has also placed solar powered walkway lamps in amongst the plantings. The statue itself is identical to the Miraculous Medal pose located outside St-Patrick’s Basilica on Kent Street. I would not be surprised if they were cast from the same mold. The whole installation has a cedar hedge and some nice big birch trees as a backdrop with the Greenbelt extending beyond.
St Bonaventure Catholic Church – 1359 Chatelain Ave (added Nov 2020)
This Miraculous Medal version of Mary is set into a freestanding niche, historically a way of placing sculptures of saints within the walls of churches and cathedrals. One may also associate this treatment, albeit in a minimalist abstract form, to the Our Lady of Lourdes apparition Bernadette Soubirous had of Mary standing in a grotto. This relatively common form of presenting Mary statues is often confused with old converted cast iron bathtubs. In this instance the flat front facing provides a smooth surface on which to mount a protective clear plexiglass. A planter holder is attached to the front in which offerings of flowers or other items can be placed. On either side are concrete plaques, the one on the right reads ‘LES PAROISSIENS(NES) DE ST. BONAVENTURE ET LEUR CURE’, and the one on the right,’ ANNEE MARIALE 1987-1988′. A Marian Year (or Année Marial) is one the Catholic church deems important that Mary be revered and celebrated. Pope John Paul II chose 1987 to be an international Marian Year so the concrete plaques seems to suggest this congregation took up his call and erected this statue.
St Joseph’s Churchand St Joe’s Mission– (added December 2020)
Here we have not one but TWO identical mini-Miraculous Medal statues. The first is at the corner of St Joseph’s Church, nestled under a sign at Wilbrod and Cumberland. The second statue is just half a block south on Cumberland, set in a bit from the street. The statues and inverted concrete planters on which they stand are exactly the same, probably cast from the same molds. They also have metal cables looped around them. The one on Cumberland is locked to something sticking out of the ground but the one by the sign isn’t secured to anything. Some unexplained history going on there…..maybe a few previous Mary’s went disappearing? Who knows.
The story of St Joseph’s church dates way back to when the the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate showed up to deal with a rough & tough Bytown as Ottawa was known then. A history of the church is described by Terry Byrne, in his book Where the Spirit Lives.
Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Parish 1153 Wellington Street (added December 2020)
Here Mary is gazing heavenward with hands clasped together in prayer. There are red roses strewn at her feet. She is in a pretty sad state of abandon along with the whole facade on this side of the building.
The second Mary on this site strikes the familiar Miracle Medal pose. Here she is more down to earth, framed by a sign announcing the name of the church and directing worshipers to the public entrance on Grant street. The wreaths at her feet are temporary, however she is flanked by two planted rose bushes. Roses seem to be the linking theme for these two sculptures. The side of the building facing Grant Street is in much better shape.
The abundance of Mary statues located thoughout the National Capital Region may seem bewildering, however one must take into consideration the overwhelming historical presence the Catholic church had in the lives of devotees. For example, in June 1947 Ottawa hosted a huge Marian Congress that included a parade of numerous floats winding past parliament Hill each depicting Mary in different contexts. There was also an enormous stage set built in Lansdowne Park with a colossal statue of Mary soaring above. A documentary film depicting the enormity of this celebration can be seen here.