MONTREAL - The rotating beacon atop Place Ville Marie is one of Montreal’s signature sights.

For 50 years the hypnotizing downtown luminary landmark has soothed urban window-gazing insomniacs, but few have seen it up close.

The lights belong to the Royal Bank of Canada, anchor tenants of William Zeckendorf’s landmark building since its inception 50 years ago.

Unlike a lighthouse, which aims to ferry ships safely to harbour, the PVM's brilliant sight aims to illuminate Montrealers’ familiarity with a financial institution.

“They aim only to emphasize the presence of the Royal Bank in Montreal,” said RBC Public Relations Director Raymond Chouinard.

To reach the lights, one must venture up a narrow flight of stairs atop the skyscraper that leads to the 47th floor.

Each of the four German-made 2,500 watt bulbs costs $1,500 and is mounted in front of mirrors, which help project the light up to 150 kilometres.

The lights have, in the past, gone out, most notably around 2000 when they were absent from the city’s skyscraper for several months.

A Dutch version of The Amazing Race was taping a TV episode atop the building when an antenna slammed down on it, but nobody was hurt in the incident.


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We'll be back with another series in 2013.