04/17/2015 04:39 EDT | Updated 07/03/2015 09:59 EDT

Leaning steeple on St-Henri church removed

The Saint-Zotique Church in Montreal's Saint-Henri neighbourhood dismantled the top of one of its bell towers Friday morning because it was dangerously tilted to one side.

A parishioner noticed the copper top of one of the church's two steeples was crooked and reported it to the church.

The area was fenced off and work crews were called in a day later to remove it with two large cranes.

Damage to the leaning steeple was clear once it was lowered to the ground. The wood inside was rotted and both the copper dome and iron cross were corroded.

Community saddened

The Saint-Zotique Church was completed in 1927 and overlooks Saint-Henri's Sir-Georges-Étienne-Cartier Square near the historic Lachine Canal. It was built at a time when the neighbourhood was largely working-class and regularly attended the Catholic church.

The priest, Father Jean Boyer, was saddened as the steeple of his church was lowered to the ground Friday.

"It's like part of history going down there," he said.

Saint-Henri resident Vincent Thomasset said he was sorry the top of the bell tower had to come down.

"I just hope they put the same kind of tower back up and they have the money to restore it," he said.

Funding needed

Boyer said the parish is now cash-strapped because very few people come to worship at Saint-Zotique Church these days.

He said removing the top of the bell tower cost about $7,000, and repairing it would have cost a lot more.

"I am sad because especially here in Saint-Henri it's almost the last church [still] up and open," he said, adding that he and other parishioners noticed the damage after a wind storm earlier in the week.

It's not clear if that's what caused the steeple to tilt to one side.

Work crews were asked to also inspect the second bell tower while they were carrying out repairs. Boyer fears that steeple will have to come down too.

"What's going to happen for the rest, we don't know," he said.

Boyer said he doesn't believe the 88-year-old church will be eligible for any provincial government funding so he's hoping the Archdiocese of Montreal will be able to help pay for the repairs.

Caroline Tanguay, who is responsible for religious heritage and sacred art for the Archdiocese of Montreal said it is evaluating the cost of the damage and will consider funding. She said the Archdiocese may launch a fundraising campaign to help pay for the repairs.