Thursday 29 September 2016

St. Michael’s Cathedral: Rededication of a Splendid and Noble Edifice

On September 29th, 1848, the Cathedral of the Diocese of Toronto was dedicated  to St. Michael by Bishop Ignace Bourget of Montreal. This Thursday, after six years of renovations and 168 years to the day later, it will be rededicated.

Original letterbook entry noting the dedication of the Cathedral.

September 29, 1848
Letterbook Collection, LB01.181

Second page of above entry.

Letterbook Collection, LB01.181 

L’an mil huit cent quarante huit, le vingt neuf Septembre,
Nous soussigné Evêque de Montréal, sur l’invitation de Mr J. J. Hay, ArchiDiacre, et Administrateur de ce Diocèse pendant la Vacance du siege Episcopal, avons, en presence des [?] et Révd mes R. Gaulin, Evêque de Kingston, P. Phelan, Evêque de Carrhae et Coadjuteur de Kingston, J. C. Prince, Evêque de Martyropolis et Coadjuteur de Montréal, et Jos. Bruno Guigues, Evêque de Bytown, et assisté de Mr. J. J. Vinet, Curé du Sault-au Récollet et de Mr. Madden Prêtre et Professeur du Collège de Kingston, consacré l’Eglise Cathédrale de cette ville, avec le maître autel, et y avons depose les Reliques de St Clément et de St Pierre Martyres; un nombreux clergé du Diocès et des Diocèses – Voisins, ainsi qu’un grand nombre de pieux Fidèles assistants à cette cérémonie.

Fait et passé à Toronto les jour et an que dessus, tout les dits Seigneurs Evêques et les Prêtres assistants signé avec nous.

+Remi Ev. De Kingston
+J.C. Ev. De Martyropolis
+Jos. Eugène Ev. De Bytown
+Ig. Ev. De Montréal

P. Lafrance


The year one thousand eight hundred forty eight, the twenty ninth September, We undersigned Bishop of Montreal, on the invitation of Monseigneur J. J. Hay, Archdeacon, and Administrator of this diocese during the vacancy of the Episcopal seat, did, in presence of the [?] and Reverend Misters R. Gaulin, Bishop of Kingston, P. Phelan, Bishop of Carrhae and Coadjutor of Kingston, J. C. Prince, Bishop of Martyropolis and Coadjutor of Montreal, and Jos. Bruno Guigues, Bishop of Bytown, and assisted by Monseigneur J. J. Vinet, priest of Sault-au Récollet and of Monseigneur Madden priest and professor of the College of Kingston, consecrated the church cathedral of this city, with the high  altar, and deposited the relics of St. Clement and of St. Peter Martyrs; a number of clergy of the diocese and of the neighbouring Dioceses, and a large number of pious faithful assistants at this ceremony.

Done and passed at Toronto the day and year above, all the said lords, bishops and the priests assistants signed with us.

+Remi Ev. De Kingston
+J.C. Ev. De Martyropolis
+Jos. Eugène Ev. De Bytown
+Ig. Ev. De Montréal

P. Lafrance

St. Michael's Cathedral has been the centre of the spiritual life of Catholic Toronto for almost 170 years. Starting in 1845 at Bishop Michael Power's initiation, the city's faithful put their blood, sweat, and hard-earned wages into its construction.

ARCAT Parish Collection, St. Michael's Cathedral, Newsclippings
Toronto Mirror, September 7, 1848

Dedication of St. Michael’s Cathedral, Toronto
The Solemn Consecration and Opening for Divine Service of this noble Edifice, now erecting on Church Street, will take place on Michaelmas Day next, Friday the 29th instant. 
Several Bishops, as well of Canada as of the neighbouring Union, will be present: the august ceremonies will, therefore, be performed with all the dignity and grandeur which the Catholic Church employs upon these solemn occasions. 
As amongst the Dignitaries who will attend there are several who are well known for their learning and eloquence, there can be no hesitation in promising able expositions of the Catholic Faith and Discipline, in Discourses which will please, instruct, and edify.
It is the intention of the Building Committee to issue Tickets of Admission, for the Friday of the Consecration, and also for the Sunday following. Their chief motive in doing this, is to secure, as far as possible, the comfort of those who attend the services. The tickets are placed as low as a Dollar, for the Nave, or main body of the Church, and Half a Dollar for the Side-Aisles; but as there will doubtless be many persons present, who will be desirous of contributing more than the small sum paid for their Tickets of Admission, a Collection will be taken up in the usual manner, at the Offertory, on each day of Service; the proceeds of which, as well as of the tickets, will be applied towards the liquidation of the immense debt contracted for the erection of that splendid edifice.
Tickets can be procured at any of the Catholic Stores on King Street, and at the Episcopal Palace on Church Street.
Toronto, September 7, 1848

The city was a very different place in the 1840s, and the Cathedral has been witness to its growth and change. It has been the location of thousands of baptisms, weddings, and funerals. It is where the city has come together to worship, to celebrate, to mourn.

Looking north from St. Lawrence Market, with St. Michael's in the background.

Photo by William Notman via Wikimedia Commons

St. Michael's Cathedral as in 1870

From Landmarks of Toronto: A Collection of Historical Sketches of the Old Town of York from 1792 until 1837, and of Toronto from 1834 to 1904 by John Ross Robertson, p. 308.
John Ross Robertson describes the Cathedral this way:

"St. Michael's Cathedral, modelled after York Minster, of England, is of the early decorated Gothic style of architecture of the 14th century, which is the adaptation of the classical Roman style to the requirements of Christian worship. The length of the nave is proportioned to its width, the height of the pointed arches and the predominancy of vertical lines give the interior of the cathedral a very artistic appearance. Then the innumerable graceful and fanciful spires and pinnacles, elaborately carved and gilded that carry the eye aloft until it is lost in the tracing and the variegated decorations of the arches and vaults commingling produce a pictorial effect. Throw upon this architectural panorama of beauty and grace a flood of sunlight that is changed in its transit through the many-hued colours of the windows until every beam becomes a rainbow of loveliness, and every flash of light a gleam of glory and the sight becomes unutterably entrancing."

The rededication and reopening of the mother church of the Archdiocese of Toronto on Thursday, September 29, 2016 is cause for great rejoicing and reflection. We are not only celebrating the restoration of this Gothic jewel, but also the reopening of a gathering place in the heart of the city of Toronto. The rededication of St. Michael’s Cathedral reaffirms a Catholic presence in the largest city in Canada and its intention to remain for another 168 years and beyond.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this interesting post. The word you couldn't decipher in the French entry is Illmes, which is the abbreviation for illustrissimes or most illustrious. It is paired with Rev'dmes, the abbreviation for most reverend, which is still part of the official title for bishops today. It was common in inscriptions to refer to bishops as "Most Illustrious and Most Reverend" just as Bourget does here.