Notre-Dame de la Défense Church
Text: Marie-Chantal Marchand
Translation: Nathalie Senecal


Built in the heart of Montreal's oldest Italian community, Notre-Dame-de-la-Défense church is the result of a collaboration between the architect Roch Montbriant and Guido Nincheri, who created the plans. The Romanesque style church is laid out in a Greek cross plan, and was unusual for its brick cladding. Inaugurated in 1919, the church is named for La Difesa (meaning aid or protection), a site in the Campobasso region of Southern Italy where the Virgin was said to have appeared in 1898. Thus, the parishioners of Notre-Dame-de-la-Défense, many of whom came from this area, named the church to honour both their homeland and their patroness, the Protective Virgin.

Guido Nincheri was involved in almost every aspect of Notre-Dame-de-la-Défense's design, and the church is a showcase for his many talents. Aside from drawing the architectural plans, he created the stained glass windows, the frescoes and decorations. Nincheri also designed many elements of the church interior, such as the high-altar and the balustrades, which were built by the firm Puliti de Pietrasanta. Sculptural details such as white and coloured marble rosettes were drawn by Nincheri and made by another company of Italian-Canadian craftsmen, Biagini de Pietrasanta.

The church's exterior facade is graced with eight artistic candelabra of Nincheri's design. In the shape of lilies, the lamps are topped with a crown bearing the initials A.M. which stand for Ave Maria, motto of the Servites-de-Marie fathers, the Order which serves the parish.

Notre-Dame-de-la-Défense's cupola is the setting for Nincheri's representation of the Holy Trinity on a celestial background. It is not yet clear which medium, oil paint or tempera, Nincheri used for the Holy Trinity image. Less mysterious are his many oil on canvas paintings of Italian saints such as Saint Julianna Falconieri, Saint Maria Goretti, and the Seven Founding Saints of the Servites-de-Marie Order, all of which decorate the walls of the church.

To find out more about the frescoes in Notre-Dame-de-la-Défense, please go to the Fresco section of this website.

  Notre-Dame de la Défense