One of Montreal's best-known buildings is undergoing a substantial overhaul. From escalators to a visitor's centre to a 360 degree observatory dome, most of St. Joseph's Oratory will be restored, renovated, and updated.

The $75 million project began in the spring, and later this month the Church is launching a campaign to raise $1 million from the public.

Father Claude Grou, Rector of the Oratory, said while three levels of government are contributing to the renovation project, devoted Catholics wanted a way to help.

"It has been built with the help of the people and it will continue to be a project that we build together and we are proud together to contribute to this project," Grou said.

Pilgrims and stunning views

St. Joseph's Oratory has long been a place where Catholics with reduced mobility came to pray for help from Brother Andre.

Canes and crutches that were discarded by people after praying at the Church are suspended in one of the chapels, but the renovations will make visiting the Oratory easier for those who have difficulty walking.

The Oratory is installing new escalators connecting the site's crypt to Queen Mary Rd., and more escalators inside the building

However the most stunning change will be an observatory dome accessible to all at the top of the Oratory.

Calling it "the highest window in Montreal," the dome will feature views of much of the island.

"The Oratory is more than a place for religious groups. It's an open place for people of all faiths, even people who are searching for their own spiritual roots," said Grou.

Survivor of a shocking attack

While the number of Quebecers attending mass regularly has dropped considerably, the Oratory continues to be a place where Catholics come to pray.

Services are held daily and live-streamed on Sel+Lumiere TV for those who cannot attend in person.

It was during one such service last year that a man armed with a knife attacked Father Grou, inflicting minor injuries.

One week after the stabbing, Grou returned to work and said he held no resentment towards his attacker.

Vlad Christian Eremia was charged with attempted murder and assault but found not criminally responsible. He is in the care of a psychiatric hospital until authorities determine he can be released.

Ad campaign begins Oct. 24

The fundraising and advertising campaign will start on Oct. 24 with a performance featuring Quebec actor Jean-Francois Porlier.

He will narrate the 115-year history of the Oratory, and hopes to present some historical tidbits that aren't known by the masses.

"We're going for the facts, the history of the Oratory. We'll have some live music, a lot of unique information that was found in the archives," he said.

On that date videos from entertainers and leaders such as Yannick Nezet-Seguin, Denis Coderre, Soeur Angele and Denys Arcand will show their support for the Oratory and what it means to them.

When the project was first announced last year, Grou expected it would be completed in 2020, but the completion date has been pushed back to 2024.

The Oratory will remain open during construction.