Hidden Secrets of Dorchester Square & Facts of this Montreal Landmark


This city is rich in culture and history, but many of the beautiful places and structures are unknown even to the locals. For instance, take Dorchester Square in downtown Montreal and its crosses embedded in the paving stones. Most people don’t know that they exist, to begin with, nor why they’re there.

Every corner you turn in Montreal represents a piece of history or a popular tourist attraction. And, many landmarks have their secrets.

Dorchester Square is a park framed by René Lévesque Boulevard to the south, Dorchester Square Street to the north, Metcalfe Street to the east, and Peel Street to the west. The Sun Life Building is just across from the square. It was originally named Dominion Square, honoring the founding of the Dominion of Canada in 1867.

The square is bustling with foot traffic on workdays for the most part. Dominion Square was completed in 1892 and included four monuments:

  • Tribute to Sir Wilfrid Laurier
  • Boer War Memorial
  • Lion of Belfort
  • Robert Burns statue

It was refurbished in 2009, with the monuments refurbished and new furniture added. New paving stones were installed with crosses embedded in them. In fact, there are 58 crosses on the paving stones in Dorchester Square!

Marc Cramer

In 2009, while the site was under construction, a burial site was “uncovered.” About 50 skeletons were exhumed but the remaining ones were left to rest in peace where they already laid. The newer small crosses were embedded commemorating the ancient cemetery that lies beneath the square.

Both Dorchester Square and Place du Canada were built on top of the city’s largest cemeteries: the Saint-Antoine Cemetery. It was here that between 40,000 and 50,000 people were buried from 1799 to 1854. Many of them were victims of the cholera epidemics.