The 169-year-old St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica, 65 Bond Street, was designed by TORONTO architect WILLIAM THOMAS. It’s the principal church of Canada’s largest English-speaking Catholic archdiocese and now, after a complete reno, its interior is among the most spectacular in the city. The Archdiocese, encouraged by Cardinal THOMAS COLLINS, hired TORONTO’s +VG Architects to take on the task of restoring the yellow-brick structure inside and out.
The aspect that’s captured the public’s imagination is the crypt, which opens to the public in 2018. The first Bishop of TORONTO is buried there, along with other important people. One such is John Elmsley, a convert from the Anglican church, director of the Bank of Upper Canada and member of the Family Compact,. His father was Chief Justice of Upper Canada. “The cathedral will link with the Royal Ontario Museum and Ontario Tourism so that visitors will know that they can see those buried here were part of the social and cultural history of Canada,” said TERENCE WHITE of the architecture firm.
All the stained-glass windows were restored to their original magnificence. The rose windows in the south and north transepts were revealed after a century. New stained-glass windows were commissioned from TORONTO’s Vitreous Glassworks.
NEW YORK-based Ecclesiastical Art created decorations for the walls, and transformed the ceiling into a celestial sky with more than 18,000 stars.
The balcony was rebuilt and now seats 230. The old organ, installed in 1880, blocked some of the most beautiful stained-glass in North America. It’s gone, replaced by Opus 3907, a new $2-million pipe organ by Casavant Frères of Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec. The pipe chests were split to preserve the view and the daylight.
Ongoing phases of the restoration, with expected completion dates in 2018, include the restoration of the Bishop’s Palace or Rectory, and completion of the new crypt chapel. <ALL PHOTOGRAPHS by Paul Cormack/Concrete Pictures>