Saint Joseph's Oratory to offer unparalleled views of Montreal with 360-degree observatory

Saint Joseph's Oratory is getting an $80-million facelift, and with it, an unparalleled view of the Montreal skyline from a 360-degree observatory.

The $80-million renovation will include a new welcome centre, museum and restaurant

Despite the work being done, the oratory will remain open to visitors throughout the four year process. (L’Oratoire Saint-Joseph du Mont-Royal)

Saint Joseph's Oratory is getting an $80-million facelift, and with it, an unparalleled view of the Montreal skyline from a 360-degree observatory.

Father Claude Grou, the rector of the oratory, said that it's a place where the public is not often invited to go.

But once the renovation is complete in 2022, visitors will be allowed up to the top of the dome — to an area called the lantern — where they will be able to gaze out across the city.

The lantern space at the top of the dome is small and will only be open to about a dozen people at a time. (L'Oratoire Saint-Joseph du Mont-Royal)

"It is amazing," said Grou.

"Especially when it's a beautiful sunny day and you can see far, you can see the Laurentian mountains on one side and even you can see the mountains of the beginning of the United States on the other side. So you have a sense of the immensity."

The panoramic observatory isn't the only new addition coming to the oratory, either.

The construction will include a new welcome centre at street level, a new restaurant and gift shop, a refresh of the museum and improvements to escalator and elevator access.

There will also be images projected onto the walls of the cavernous inner dome where passersby can pause on their way to the top.

The lantern space is small and only a dozen or so people will be allowed up at any one time.

The inner dome will feature windows to the outside where people can look out and see the Oratory gardens. (L'Oratoire Saint-Joseph du Mont-Royal)

The work — $62 million of which is being financed by the municipal, provincial and federal governments — will begin this fall and conclude by 2022.

Grou said the oratory will not close to visitors during the work. At worst, he said, people might have to use a different entrance or access the parking lot from another side.

"We will make sure that it is easy to come to the oratory even during the work," he said.

The inner dome will have images projected onto the walls as people make the climb up to the top. (L'Oratoire Saint-Joseph du Mont-Royal)

He hopes that the project will inspire a record number of visitors, on top of the two million people who come to the site each year.

"People will spend more time at the oratory because there is so much more they can see. Just to visit the new museum and go up to that place you will need a fairly good amount of time."

The museum will be completely refreshed including getting a new gift shop. (L'Oratoire Saint-Joseph du Mont-Royal)