Cité Mémoire: History comes alive in Old Montreal

Cité Mémoire's 20 large-scale video projections bring Montreal history to life on the walls, cobblestone and trees of Old Montreal. They're the latest creation of multimedia pioneers Michel Lemieux and Victor Pilon.

Large-scale video projections conjure up characters from the past on the walls of Old Montreal

This is one of the giant projections from Cité Mémoire, a project to evoke Montreal history created by Michel Lemieux and Victor Pilon as part of the 375th anniversary celebrations coming next year to Montreal. (Cité Mémoire)

A new way to experience history: that's the goal of Cité Mémoire.

For the next four years, the trees, buildings and cobblestone streets of Old Montreal will be lit with a series of projections inspired by the history of the city.

Cité Mémoire lights up Old Montreal


5 years ago
For next four years, buildings, streets, trees of Old Montreal become the backdrop for a new way to experience the city's history. 1:59

"We're talking about these people that created and dreamed Montreal. We're telling their story. And we're telling the story through these characters that sort of emerge through the stones," said co-creator Victor Pilon.

Jackie Robinson comes to life, sprinting towards spectators in his Montreal Royals uniform. (CBC)

Jackie Robinson, the first black professional baseball player, hits a ball and runs toward the viewer in his Montreal Royals uniform.

Moving day

Another projection tells the story of Montreal's moving day, called like a hockey game with Maurice Richard and his wife and family racing up and down Montreal staircases with their sofa and kitchen table.

One projection brings to life a Montreal move. (CBC)

In what is described as the largest such installation in the world, the images are screened from 80 projectors located on the rooftops of buildings in Old Montreal.

5 years in the making

Pedestrians walking through the area at night use a free app on their cell phone to conjure them up.

Cité Mémoire creators Michel Lemieux (left) and Victor Pilon say their projections tell the story of those who 'dreamed Montreal.' (CBC)

Michel Lemieux and Victor Pilon have been working on the project for the past five years.  

"It's a tremendous challenge to install in Old Montreal. We needed the permission of the owner of each building to use these walls," said Pilon.

Some images are so vivid that spectators find themselves tiptoeing on the cobblestone through the apparition of a flowing river, meant to evoke the Algonquin creation myth.

Joe Beef, the Montreal tavern owner now famous as the name of one of the city's best restaurants, also figures in the series. His funeral is another story told in Cité Mémoire.

Tea and oranges

Twenty scenes are being projected now – including a tribute to Leonard Cohen's Suzanne on the clock tower in the Old Port.  

Four more are to be added next year on May 17, the 375th anniversary of the founding of Montreal.

This image, representing the woman who served Leonard Cohen tea and oranges, is projected on the clock tower in the Old Port as part of the Cité Mémoire open air history experience.