Friday, 30 November 2018

Exhibit A: You can't always get what you want

Sometimes I can't help but hum the song from the Rolling Stones to myself when people request graphic material from us.

Everyone loves to see photographs of the past, and photographs of our bishops, parishes, priests, and various events to can help bring Toronto’s early Catholic history to life.

Unfortunately, we don’t always have photographs and portraits people are requesting. Photography was not accessible, never mind affordable, for most people until the late 1800s, when photography equipment and techniques drastically improved.

Finding visual documentation for the history of our Archdiocese is therefore a bit of a challenge.

For example, we at ARCAT have always wished for is a better portrait of our first Bishop, Bishop Michael Power. In our collection we only have photographs of a portrait belonging to St. Michael's Cathedral. If you call looking for a portrait of Bishop Power, we're going to send you this:

Photograph of an original painting of Bishop Michael Power


If you’re a follower of our blog you have probably seen his portrait before. Bishop Power died in 1847, before photography was popularized. And the portrait was painted in the 1930s, well after Bishop Power’s death. Although it’s beautiful, it’s never stricken me as exactly the most realistic portrait there is.

There is nothing else we can really pull from our archives when we're asked for publishable graphic of Bishop Power. We know of two other portrayals of Bishop Power that we found in books in our reference library, but unfortunately don't know who owns the originals, or if the originals still exist for that matter. And both books were published well after Bishop Power's death, so we don't know where the illustrations came from, when they were created, and how accurate they are. There are similarities between all three portraits of Bishop Power, and maybe through comparison we can better visualize what he would have looked like.

Bishop Michael Power's portrait and coat of arms, as published in  Armorial des évèques du Canada : album historico-héraldique contenant les portraits et les armoiries des évèques du Canada depuis Mgr de Montmorency de Laval jusqu'à date avec notice biographique pour chacun by Gérard Brassard.. [1940]

ARCAT Reference Library, 282.092 BRA 1940

Bishop Michael Power as illustrated in  Jubilee Volume - The Archdiocese of Toronto and Archbishop Walsh 1842-1892 edited by J.R. Teefy, 1892

ARCAT Reference Library, 282.713 TEE 1892

The illustrations we have, or rather don't have, for Bishop Power extends to other people, landmarks and subjects from our early days. While we will try to find something when we're asked for a photograph, sometimes, you're going to be disappointed.

Friday, 23 November 2018

Today's Breakfast: Surreal

I started working in the Archives Department at the Archdiocese about 3 weeks ago. Within that time, I have been settling in and familiarizing myself with the extensive and varied holdings preserved here. While exploring our database one afternoon, my eyes suddenly landed on the word, “Dali”. It was Salvador Dali listed as a creator, and the item was an original relief wall sculpture located in one of our storage rooms. As a huge Salvador Dali fan myself, I immediately darted to its location and feasted my eyes upon this original work by the artist.

Relief wall sculpture mounted on velvet in a gold frame

Artwork Special Collections

Artwork Special Collections 

Titled, “Christ of St. John of the Cross”, the sculpture has been done in gold patina and hangs at a modest size of 76 x 46 cm. This sculpture happens to be one of many copies produced by Dali between the years 1951-1983 from a single master mold. The gold patina version was specifically limited to two editions of seventy-five sculptures each, and our friend sits at number 5 of the first edition. Other versions include platinum, silver and bronze patina.

Edition and copy number

Artwork Special Collections

The relief wall sculpture, "Christ of St. John of the Cross”, was originally developed from a painting by Dali of the same name, as seen below:
Christ of St. John of the Cross. c. 1951.
Oil on canvas. 204.8 x 115.9 cm.
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow.
Digital photo taken from Gala-Salvador Dali Foundation. Cat. No. 667.

As one can see, the sculpture and the painting bear a striking resemblance to one another, sharing the central image of Christ with a boat and fishermen at the bottom of the image. Dali's inspiration for this painting, and ultimately the sculpture, came from two places: a drawing done by Saint John of the Cross, a 16th century Carmelite priest, after he had seen a vision of Christ during prayer (view it here); and the vision that Dali, too, had experienced when he dreamt of an image of Christ on the cross.
At the bottom of his studies for his painting, Dali wrote: 
“In the first place, in 1950, I had a ‘cosmic dream’ in which I saw this image in color and which in my dream represented the ‘nucleus of the atom’. This nucleus later took on a metaphysical sense; I considered it ‘the very unity of the universe’, the Christ! In the second place, when, thanks to the instructions of Father Bruno, a Carmelite, I saw the Christ drawn by Saint John of the Cross, I worked out geometrically a triangle and a circle, which aesthetically summarized all my previous experiments, and I inscribed my Christ in this triangle.”

Close up of figures and Dali signature

Artwork Special Collections

When the original painting was first exhibited, it was deemed “banal” by an important art critic and was not well received as it broke from the artist’s more surrealist techniques. Several years later in 1961, the painting would be slashed by a visitor while hanging in the Glasgow Museum. This did not deter Dali from creating hundreds of these relief wall sculptures. The painting has since been repaired and continues to have a profound effect on its viewers.
ARCAT received its relief wall sculpture through a donation in 2003 from the Estate of G. Emmett Cardinal Carter.

Friday, 16 November 2018

A Pleasant Journey Across the Pacific

This month Scarboro Missions celebrated its 100 year jubilee. Today we're sharing a few photos that the society's founder, Monsignor John Fraser sent to Cardinal McGuigan from Japan. The group's original purpose was to train priests to send to China, but Catholic missionaries were expelled from that country at the end of the 1940s. Instead, Fraser accepted the task of rebuilding a church in Nagasaki, Japan that had been destroyed in 1945.  

After leaving Toronto in May, Monsignor Fraser arrived in Tokyo on June 11, 1950:

"Tokyo, June 11, 1950

"Your Eminence,

"After a pleasant journey across the Pacific I arrived in Japan today. In a few days I leave for Nagasaki, a two days' journey by train to begin the repairs on the bomb-blasted church. 

"Humbly in Xo J.M. Fraser"

ARCAT Photo Collection

After arriving in Nagasaki, Fraser sent some souvenir photos of the recovering city and its harbour. 

A 1950s panorama of Nagasaki.

PH 27S\43P
ARCAT Photo Collection

A closeup of the church that Monsignor Fraser helped to rebuild. Getty Images has a 1920s photo from the same perspective.

PH 27S\43P
ARCAT Photo Collection

Another shot of Nagasaki by night.

PH 27S\44P
ARCAT Photo Collection

Over the next few years, Monsignor Fraser built churches in Fukuoka and Osaka.

Monsignor Fraser with parishioners at Mary Mother of God Church in Fukuoka, Japan.


ARCAT Photo Collection

Monsignor Fraser spent his life dedicated to spreading the Good News, and that spirit endured through 100 years of the Scarboro Missions. In a sermon during a mass held to send of young missionaries he said, "It is consoling to see that in this age of materialism and religious indifferentism, there are still generous souls consecrating the best of themselves, not for temporal interests, nor for political reasons or personal endeavours, but to enlighten people in truth and justice and charity." May that spirit continue!    

Friday, 9 November 2018

Lest We Forget

Every year on November 11, we remember the courage and sacrifice of all those who have served Canada in times of war.

Our photo of the week shows Cardinal McGuigan among the headstones of fallen soldiers at the Canadian military cemetery in Moro River, Ortona, Italy.
"His Eminence James Cardinal McGuigan officiates at Canadian military cemetery, Ortona (five hours drive from Rome). He is seen talking with Mr. Jean Desy, Canadian ambassador to Rome and the Archbishop of the Italian military army. Speeches were made by the Canadian Speaker of the House, Mr. MacDonald, Mr. Gagnon, Mr. Pouliet of Quebec and others"

PH 09H/44AL

ARCAT Photo Collection

The photograph was taken in November 1950, following the blessing of a new chapel at the Moro River Canadian War Cemetery in Ortono. Canadian donations funded the construction of the new chapel to replace one that had been destroyed during the war. In 1944 official war artist Lieutenant Comfort painted a striking painting of the damage to the church; this painting is now part of The Canadian War Museum collection and viewable on their website.
His Eminence Cardinal McGuigan gave the sermon for the blessing of the rebuilt chapel and, Archbishop Maruice Roy of Quebec officiated. The photograph also shows Canadian Ambassador to Italy, Honorable Jean Desy, who formally presented the chapel to Italian authorities after the ceremony.

The Canadian Corps selected Moro River as the site for a cemetery in January 1944 to bury Candian soldiers who died before, during and after the Battle of Ortona in December of 1943. The First Canadian Infantry Division was ordered to take Ortona as part of a larger campaign to break the German line of defence on Italy’s eastern coast. After 8 days of fighting, the Germans withdrew, but not without a price: by the end of the battle over 500 Canadian casualties were reported. Canadian troops continued to make advances and patrol the area until spring of 1944.

The main road to the cemetery passes under an archway in the very chapel blessed by Cardinal McGuigan and Archbishop Roy 68 years ago. There are 1615 individuals buried at the cemetery, 1375 of which are identified as Canadian soldiers.

We Remember.

Friday, 2 November 2018

Record of the Week: A Peek into Everyday Life

One of my favourite things about ARCAT is getting to see small glimpses into the everyday lives of people who lived 150 years ago. Today I found an account book for Small & Shirriff, a grocery store at 106 Front Street East used by Archbishop Lynch's residence at St. John's Grove. It's fun to be able to see what the Archbishop was eating and how much it cost.

St. John's Grove
In a/c with
Small & Shirriff
106 Front St East


HO 02.11
ARCAT Holograph Collection

The household ordered foods such as rice, potatoes, corn starch, cheese, coffee, oranges, oysters, apples, butter, eggs, filberts, and more for less money than you would spend on breakfast:


HO 02.11
ARCAT Holograph Collection


HO 02.11
ARCAT Holograph Collection

Next time you're walking past 106 Front Street East, you can think, "This is where Archbishop Lynch got his groceries!"