Tales of Technology Part II: Purple

I grew up in the pretty little suburb St. Lambert, across the Seaway Canal from the Island of Montreal. At the end of my street, I had a clear view of the canal and its ships, the Expo Islands, and then the city. Mount Royal loomed behind them all. I could clearly see the cross on its peak — one of my favourite views.

At night, the cross was lit up in white lights.
Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay 

During the summer of 1978, Pope Paul VI died. While this world event unfolded, I was at my relatives’ cottage, perched above the Northumberland Strait near the tiny community of Tidnish, Nova Scotia. 

Whenever I was there, engaging with the ocean and the tantalizing tidal mud flats, there was nothing to make me want to go back to the city. 

But that summer I would have loved to have seen what happened to the Mount Royal cross: to mark the death of the Pope, the lights on the cross were changed to purple.

Image by Aimee Valentine from Pixabay 

By the time I got home, a new Pope had been chosen and the cross was white again.  

A short time later, however, the new Pope died, and the cross on Mount Royal was purple once again. It was September, and I was home to see it. 

What amazes me most about the Year-of-Three-Popes-and-Two-Purple-Crosses is the technology. In 1992, The Mount Royal cross was converted to fibre-optic light, allowing for easy changes to purple (also to red or blue). In 2008, it was converted to polychromatic LEDs, allowing for easy changes to any colour. But back in 1978, city-workers would have had to change every light bulb from white to purple, and then back to white again…twice. 


  1. What would we do without our computers, microwaves, t.v. and our fibre-optics? Some would be lost.

  2. Yes indeed. I certainly need my internet to fill in long-forgotten facts!


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