Thursday, 24 December 2015

Christmas Greetings

Have you ever wondered what types of greeting cards were exchanged at Christmas in the past? Our staff certainly did...

Below you will find a selection of Christmas cards sent in 1949 to James C. Cardinal McGuigan, Archbishop of Toronto.

The staff at the Archives of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto (ARCAT) wish you all peace and abundant blessings this Christmas.

Cardinal McGuigan fonds, MG AA28.01

A beautifully illuminated card from the Sisters of St. Joseph of Toronto.

Cardinal McGuigan fonds, MG AA28.01

Handmade card with festive embellishments from the Ladies of St. Columkille's Parish, Uptergrove.

Cardinal McGuigan fonds, MG AA28.01

Examples of commercially produced Christmas cards.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Our mother church in the midst of a facelift

Today marks 174 years since the Diocese of Toronto was established and Rev. Michael Power named its first bishop.

St. Michael's Cathedral, the mother church of the archdiocese, is currently closed for extensive renovations (although there is an Advent and Christmas mass schedule).  It is hoped that the refurbished cathedral will reopen in time to celebrate our dodransbicentennial in 2016.

Last week, the cathedral opened its doors for a two-day Open House, offering the general public a sneak peak at the restoration in progress. The event was very well attended, with ​more than 4,300 visitors in total. The artists, craftspeople and contractors involved with the project displayed examples of their work at various stations around the cathedral, which was easy to navigate in the absence of any pews.

The Ceiling
One of the most striking elements of the restoration is the ceiling of the Cathedral. Now almost completed, it has occupied the father and daughter team of artists for over a year. The blue panels with gold stars follows the spirit of the original ceiling, which was painted over in subsequent years.

Archives Staff photo

The currently restored ceiling of St. Michael's Cathedral. The blue background with gold stars is a traditionally Gothic feature, which is consistent with the church's architecture. The pattern was designed to have strong diagonal lines, created by outlining some of the stars in red.  This draws the eye upwards, giving a similar effect as Gothic vaulting.  
Photographs Special Collection, PH0001/165CP
Photograph of lithograph depicting Bishop John J. Lynch giving the veil to a novice of the Loretto Convent
by G. A. Binkert; printed by W. C. Chewett and Co., [between 1860 and 1868]

This rendering depicts the original painted ceiling of the Cathedral: gold stars on a blue field. 

Cathedral Interior
Archives Staff photo

Most of the interior pillars have been replaced with new concrete supports. These posts will eventually be boxed in decorative covers. 

Archives Staff photo

A sample of the new pews, which can be sponsored by the public.

Photo courtesy of the Office of Public Relations and Communications

New stained glass has been commissioned, including this rose window.

Archives Staff photo

A sample of the new tile floor and the wall panelling that will cover the now exposed brick, as seen in the background.

Archives Staff photo

Restored wooden statues of the saints, which will be returned to the new Gothic screen that stands behind the sanctuary.

Photo courtesy of the Office of Public Relations and Communications

Examples of the different stages of statue restoration.

Marian Bronze Doors
Archives Staff photo

Artist's sketchbooks of the new Marian bronze doors. The panels will depict the Marian Mysteries of the Rosary.

Archives Staff photo

The panels of the bronze doors are cast using a modern "lost-wax method".  The artist carves these maquettes and then they are cast in rubber to make a mould. Wax is poured into the rubber mould to create a wax replica.  The wax is coated in many layers of ceramic. When the ceramic is fired, the wax core melts, leaving a cavity into which molten bronze is poured. Once the bronze has solidified, the ceramic mould is chipped off.

Photo courtesy of the Office of Public Relations and Communications

The bronze panels will be protected with gold leaf. This is one of the final panels.  The doors will take two more years to complete as shown in the sketch.

The Roof
Archives Staff photo

A representative from Semple Gooder Roofing shows off a sample of the new slate roof.  The original slate shingles lasted 120 years before being replaced by a solid-coloured roof.  The new third roof will copy the decorative pattern of the original shingles, as determined from archival photos.
Once installed, slate shingles weigh 10 lbs per square foot.

Archives Staff photo

In the foreground are two pieces of carved stone which are part of the vertical elements in cathedral's roofscape.
On the right is an original stone that was in good shape and needed only minor restoration.  On the left is a newly hand-carved copy to replace a similar element that could not be salvaged.

The Crypt Chapel
Bishop Michael Power spearheaded the building of the cathedral in 1845, but he died of typhoid while ministering to Irish immigrants in 1847.  Though Bishop Power did not get to see St. Michael's completed, he is buried in the crypt under the church's main altar.  As part of the current renovations, the basement has been excavated an additional 17 feet to accommodate a chapel. Appropriately, Bishop Power's tomb will be a central feature in the new crypt chapel.

Photo courtesy of the Office of Public Relations and Communications

The entrance foyer to the new crypt chapel.

Photo courtesy of the Office of Public Relations and Communications

The tombs are protected while the crypt chapel is being constructed

Photo courtesy of the Office of Public Relations and Communications

The master stone carver stands beside his third-scale model of the pietà.  The final statue will stand in front of the tomb of the three Loretto Sisters who are buried in the crypt.  The IBVM was the first female order invited to Toronto.

Proposed Cathedral Centre
Photo courtesy of the Office of Public Relations and Communications

This is a concept model for a Cathedral Centre, just north of the church (photo centre).  The upper floors would contain administrative offices, while the street level floors would function as multipurpose space and include a large church hall.

For more media coverage of the Cathedral Open House:

Friday, 11 December 2015

Jubilees and Holy Doors

Jewish and Christian traditions hold the Jubilee year to be a time of joy and universal pardon. In Catholicism, Jubilees - or Holy Years - have been designated by popes since 1300. Ordinary jubilees are usually celebrated every 25 or 50 years, with extraordinary jubilees convoked based on need.

Observing the Holy Year includes making a pilgrimage to Rome. Plenary indulgences are granted to pilgrims who visit one of the four major basilicas and pass through its Holy Door. The Holy Doors are otherwise cemented shut.

On December 8th, Pope Francis ceremoniously opened the Holy Door of Saint Peter's Basilica, marking the beginning of the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

Pope Francis also extended to every ordinary bishop the privilege of designating Holy Doors within his diocese for pilgrims who are unable to travel to Rome. Cardinal Collins has designated Doors of Mercy at seven parishes and two shrines within the archdiocese. These local doors will open this Sunday, December 13, 2015.

Read more about the Holy Doors of Mercy in the Archdiocese of Toronto and how to obtain a jubilee indulgence.

In the Archives, we have records and souvenirs of previous Jubilees:

Archbishop Lynch fonds, L AL02.22

A certificate for pilgrims of the 1875 Jubilee Year, issued by Archbishop of Toronto John Joseph Lynch

Archbishop O'Connor fonds, O AA06.01

A pastoral letter issued by Archbishop Denis O'Connor concerning the 1900 Jubilee Year

Photographs Collection, PH62/02PC

Souvenir postcard of the Holy Year 1925 depicting Pope Pius XI

Textiles Special Collection, TX108

A souvenir silk scarf of the 1950 Jubilee Year. Pope Pius XII is depicted on the papal throne (sedia gestatoria) at the top along with portraits of the cardinals, including Toronto's Cardinal McGuigan (right)

Medallions Special Collection, MD09

Papal medallion struck by Pius XII on the occasion of the Great Jubilee Year of 1950 

Archbishop Pocock fonds, PO SU25.03
Cardinal Cardinal fonds, CA RC631.01

Bulls of Indiction (formal announcement or proclamation) for the Holy Years of 1975 and 1983, which depicts the opening of the Holy Doors.

Medallions Special Collection, MD144(a&b)

Pins issued for the celebration of the Great Jubilee in 2000

Artifacts Special Collection, AF283

Earthenware ciborium used at the Archdiocese of Toronto Jubilee 2000 Mass, Skydome, Toronto (June 18, 2000)

Friday, 4 December 2015

Hark! St. Michael's Choir School Sings!

For many Torontonians it is a Christmas tradition to attend the St. Michael's Choir School Christmas concert at Massey Hall. This year marks the school's 50th Christmas concert at the Shuter Street venue.

St. Michael's Choir School was founded in 1937 by Monsignor Edward Ronan, who was the music director at St. Michael's Cathedral. Originally at the elementary level, it provided boys with education in music theory and performance, Gregorian chant, as well as academics. Over the years, more grades were added, and the school moved into its own building on Bond Street. In 1955, the school became affiliated with the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music. Students from the choir school have traveled the world, and have performed for Prime Ministers, Popes, and the Queen. The school's choristers have continued to provide music at the Cathedral since the beginning.

Some of the gems in the St. Michael's Choir School archival collection include:

The original poster from the St. Michael's Choir School Christmas concert at Massey hall, 1967. 

Programme from the 1965 Massey Hall Christmas concert.

Photo of choir members from the 1966 Massey Hall Christmas concert programme.

A choir boy poses with a Christmas wreath.

Choristers practice with a Nativity scene.

A winter hike.

For tickets to Saturday's or Sunday's performance, visit .