Place d’Armes is an open square in Old Montreal (French: Vieux Montréal) that is surrounded by magnificent architecture, the Notre-Dame Basilica, a monument in memory of Paul de Chomedey and various other impressive landmark buildings. This small square contains a variety of architectural styles that range over a few decades at the end of the 19th century and the start of the 20th century. It is one of the most visited sites in Montreal.
Some of the oldest buildings in Canada can be found around Place d’Armes. There is the Old Seminary of Saint-Sulpice, which happens to be the oldest surviving building in Montreal, built from 1684 to 1687. On the other side of the square sits the Bank of Montreal, the oldest bank in Canada, which was founded in 1817. Finally, Montreal’s first skyscraper, the New York Life Insurance Building, built in 1888, is also located on this square.
Place d’Armes is a square commemorating Paul de Chomedey de Maisonneuve’s defense of the French settlement against the Iroquois in 1644. So it’s no wonder that the center of the square is occupied by a monument of Paul de Chomedy, the defender of the city of Ville-Marie, which would eventually become Montreal. A statue of Paul de Chomedey has been present in Place d’Armes since 1895.
Place d’Armes is the second oldest public site in Montreal, it was called Place de la Fabrique when it was first developed in 1693, at the request of the Sulpicians, then later renamed Place d’Armes in 1721 when it became the stage of various military events. From 1781 to 1813, it was used as a hay and wood market, then developed as a Victorian garden after it was acquired by the city in 1836.
Like many of Montreal’s popular attractions, Place d’Armes truly comes alive during the busy summer months. Horse-drawn carriages (French: caleches) depart from this square and they start leaving as early as 9AM in the morning. It is one of the two most popular public squares in Old Montreal, with the other being Place Jacques-Cartier.