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2006 03 28
Broadcast Pews
Image: greynotgrey

Everybody knows about the cross on top of Mount Royal, and so they should: there has been one up there for quite sometime now.

A cross was first erected on the same site on the Mountain by Paul Chomedey, sieur de Maisonneuve, in 1643. Most noticeable at night, the current metal version was built in 1928, and was fully equipped with about 500 lights. The lighting on the cross has recently been changed to a fiber optics system, allowing it to continue to shine away. In doing so it reminds us of this city's very cozy relationship with Catholicism over the years.

Not uncoincidentally, the cross is situated on the east side of the mountain and is oriented in such a way that it is best viewed from what was Montreal's predominantly poor, French/Catholic districts. (From the north, the cross just appears as a big 'I' or perhaps enigmatically, to the Jewish community--who would have been inhabitants of the the area north of the mountain in the 1920s--as the Hebrew symbol for the number '6').

But the more prominent mountain-top piece of hardware is the broadcast tower. 'The Devil's pitchfork', as it is affectionately known, was part of the CBC's expansion into television broadcasting in the middle of the 20th century. Like the cross, it too has had different iterations. The original was put up in the Medieval Age of Television: the 1950s; its second iteration, at 55 meters, was erected in the height of the Digital Renaissance, in late 1990s.

Unlike the cross, the broadcast tower is decidedly interdenominational in its visibility, content and delivery methods: it can be seen from almost any corner of the city; it delivers multicultural programming, American sitcoms, and most of the rock hits heard on CHOM, and it continues to house an increasing arary of broadcast equipment for FM radio stations, cellular communications as well as continuing to broadcast television signals.

More about the history of the Mount Royal cross here.

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