Sixteen years as a priest in France may have prepared Monsignor Joseph-Bruno Guigues for the theological issues he faced as the first Bishop of Bytown, but they almost certainly did not prepare him for the physical and organizational challenges he would be required to meet. When he was consecrated in 1848, the Diocese of Ottawa contained 40,000 Catholics. This flock was spread out over much of what is today Eastern Ontario; as mentioned in the previous post, Guigues might be expected to travel 320 kilometres away to Temiscaming and his missionaries might need to reach as far as James Bay. Furthermore, Guigues didn’t even have a formal seat of office for the first five years of his posting, until Notre Dame was completed; to add insult to injury, the hot water heating system was not installed until two years after his death.
Most who have visited the Byward Market area of modern Ottawa would be capable of describing Notre Dame Basilica. The oldest standing church in Ottawa, and the seat of the Archdiocese of Ottawa in the Roman Catholic Church, Notre Dame is a landmark. Its twin towers can be seen from across Ottawa, and its roof is instantly recognisable (and occasionally blinding) at a closer distance. But Notre Dame is not just a pleasant addition to Ottawa’s skyline; as with many of the other historic areas in the city, it is home to a long and storied past.