Our Lady of Lourdes – Toronto’s First Domed Church

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Circa 1900 – Looking towards Our Lady of Lourdes, prior to the 1910/11 addition on the south side. Notice the main entrance was located through the door at the southwest corner of Sherbourne St and Earl St. It was covered by a wooden portico held by four columns with the words “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” inscribed above
Circa 1900 – Looking towards Our Lady of Lourdes, prior to the 1910/11 addition on the south side. Notice the main entrance was located through the door at the southwest corner of Sherbourne St and Earl St (Toronto Public Library R-642)

Our Lady of Lourdes Roman Catholic Church is located at 520 Sherbourne St (between Lourdes Ln and Earl St on the west side) in the Upper Jarvis neighbourhood of Toronto.

St John’s Grove

Before the church was built, the property on the south side of Earl St was called St John’s Grove. It was the site of the summer residence and an episcopal college established by Archbishop Lynch. The grounds had a grotto honouring Our Lady of Lourdes.

This church was a gift from the Archdiocese clergy to the Most Reverend John Joseph Lynch, C.M., the first Roman Catholic Archbishop of Toronto, in celebration of the 25th anniversary of his consecration.

The Architecture of the Original Church

The Church of Our Lady of Lourdes was built in two phases. The original church, which today is the north portion, was built in 1885/86. Architect Frederick Charles Law designed the church in the Italian Renaissance style and modelled it after Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome.

Our Lady of Lourdes is clad with buff brick, has a slim bell tower and was Toronto’s first church with a dome. Made of wood and clad with Muntz metal (a brass alloy made of mainly copper and zinc), the magnificent dome is pierced with eight windows and topped with a skylight and cross. The main entrance was originally through the door at the southwest corner of Sherbourne St and Earl St. It was covered by a wooden portico held by four columns with the words “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” inscribed above.

Interior architectural elements include friezes, beautiful wood and plasterwork, a coffered barrel-vaulted ceiling, and arches springing from piers that support the immense dome.

The structure cost about $45,000 to construct and accommodated 300 worshippers. The dedication service was held on October 28, 1886.

Our Lady of Lourdes Expansion

1911 - Our Lady of Lourdes Church taken the same year the expansion was completed. The tower and the structure to the right were part of the original church built in 1885/86 and designed by architect Frederick Charles Law. The central portion of the church and the east portico entrance was added in 1910/11 and designed by architect James Patrick Hynes
1911 – Our Lady of Lourdes Church taken the same year the expansion was completed (Toronto Public Library TSPA_0111083F)

As the congregation grew, more space was needed. In 1910, architect James Patrick Hynes beautifully integrated a significant addition on the south side of the existing structure, adding a 900-seat nave and the stone east entrance portico. He continued the original awe-inspiring architectural details throughout the interior of this elegant church.

The original church became the sanctuary. Marble steps lead up to the altar, which features the scene of The Last Supper. The altar is surmounted by a canopy made of creamy-yellow limestone, and it’s directly beneath the dome.

The nave has a coffered barrel-vaulted ceiling that is supported on each side by an arcade of seven arches.

The former archdiocesan residence, which was located to the south of the original church, was incorporated into the church, with parts of it becoming the hall.

The addition to the church was completed in 1911 at the cost of $75,000.

The Rectory

Also built in 1910/11 was the priests’ home at 41 Earl St. It was designed by architect Herbert E Moore. The red-brick house with grey cut stone trimmings initially had green-painted shutters and a green slate roof. Today it continues to house the Jesuit community and is also the church office.

Our Lady of Lourdes Today

2020 – Our Lady of Lourdes statue depicts Bernadette appealing to the Virgin Mary. In 1858 in the town of Lourdes, France, a 14-year-old peasant girl named Bernadette Soubirous saw a series of apparitions of the Virgin Mary. In 1933, she was canonized by Pope Pius XI and became Saint Bernadette
2020 – Our Lady of Lourdes statue depicts Bernadette appealing to the Virgin Mary

The church continues to serve the needs of the community, and along with offering in-person worship, Mass is also live-streamed. The parish is administered by the largest religious order in the Catholic Church, the Society of Jesus, whose members are known as the Jesuits.

Saint Bernadette of Lourdes

Tucked away in the foothills of the Pyrenees in southern France is the picturesque town of Lourdes. In 1858, it was where a 14-year-old peasant girl named Bernadette Soubirous saw a series of apparitions of the Virgin Mary. Dressed in blue and white and making the sign of the cross, Mary was said to have appeared to Bernadette above a rose bush in a grotto.

In 1933, Bernadette was canonized by Pope Pius XI and became Saint Bernadette. Today, Lourdes, France, is one of the most famous healing shrines in the world.

Did You Know?

2022 - Our Lady of Lourdes Roman Catholic Church is located at 520 Sherbourne St in Toronto’s Upper Jarvis neighbourhood. The church received heritage status from the City of Toronto in 1973. The door on the right was once the main entrance to the church
2022 – Our Lady of Lourdes Roman Catholic Church is located at 520 Sherbourne St in Toronto’s Upper Jarvis neighbourhood
  • John Joseph Lynch was born in Ireland in 1816. He was consecrated in 1859, served as Bishop of Toronto from 1860 to 1870 and then as Archbishop of Toronto from 1870 until his passing in 1888.
  • When the original church’s cornerstone was laid in June 1885, many clergy, guests and onlookers were present. The dedication ceremony included a sermon, blessing the foundation with holy water, and placing a note written on parchment in the cornerstone. Bands from many Catholic societies played sacred music during intervals.
  • Initially, the church was going to be called the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes and St John the Evangelist.
  • Upon completion, the Our Lady of Lourdes Church boundaries extended to the Don River on the east, Carlton St on the south, Church St on the west, and approximately Bloor St E on the north.
  • In June 1933, the church’s dome was struck by lightning, causing it to catch fire. When firefighters arrived to battle the blaze, five of them ascended a ladder to reach the dome’s height; however, the ladder broke, throwing them to the ground. Four firefighters were injured, and one fell to his death. Soon after the accident, the blaze was brought under control.
  • In the 1960s, the neighbourhood was evolving, bringing many newcomers to the area. This included the Filipino community, who began holding meetings and activities in the church basement. In the early 1970s, the Silayan Community Centre was opened to help with the needs of Filipino immigrants. The organization has since moved to a new location.
  • Our Lady of Lourdes Church received heritage status from the City of Toronto in 1973. The Rectory was given heritage designation in 1990.

Our Lady of Lourdes Photos   

2020 - Our Lady of Lourdes Roman Catholic Church is located at 520 Sherbourne St, between Lourdes Ln and Earl St on the west side, in the Upper Jarvis neighbourhood of Toronto
2020 – Our Lady of Lourdes Roman Catholic Church is located at 520 Sherbourne St, between Lourdes Ln and Earl St on the west side, in the Upper Jarvis neighbourhood of Toronto
Circa 1900 – Looking towards Our Lady of Lourdes, prior to the 1910/11 addition on the south side. Notice the main entrance was located through the door at the southwest corner of Sherbourne St and Earl St. It was covered by a wooden portico held by four columns with the words “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” inscribed above
Circa 1900 – Looking towards Our Lady of Lourdes, prior to the 1910/11 addition on the south side. Notice the main entrance was located through the door at the southwest corner of Sherbourne St and Earl St. It was covered by a wooden portico held by four columns with the words “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” inscribed above (Toronto Public Library R-642)
2020 – Looking northwest towards Our Lady of Lourdes Church at 520 Sherbourne St and Lourdes Ln. The Italian Renaissance-style church is clad with buff brick and features a stone portico, bell tower and a dome
2020 – Looking northwest towards Our Lady of Lourdes Church at 520 Sherbourne St and Lourdes Ln. The Italian Renaissance-style church is clad with buff brick and features a stone portico, bell tower and a dome
2022 - Our Lady of Lourdes Roman Catholic Church is located at 520 Sherbourne St in Toronto’s Upper Jarvis neighbourhood. The church received heritage status from the City of Toronto in 1973. The door on the right was once the main entrance to the church
2022 – Our Lady of Lourdes Roman Catholic Church is located at 520 Sherbourne St in Toronto’s Upper Jarvis neighbourhood. The church received heritage status from the City of Toronto in 1973. The door on the right was once the main entrance to the church
2020 – Wooden pews in the nave and the altar beneath the dome in Our Lady of Lourdes Church
2020 – Wooden pews in the nave and the altar beneath the dome in Our Lady of Lourdes Church
1911 - Our Lady of Lourdes Church taken the same year the expansion was completed. The tower and the structure to the right were part of the original church built in 1885/86 and designed by architect Frederick Charles Law. The central portion of the church and the east portico entrance was added in 1910/11 and designed by architect James Patrick Hynes
1911 – Our Lady of Lourdes Church taken the same year the expansion was completed. The tower and the structure to the right were part of the original church built in 1885/86 and designed by architect Frederick Charles Law. The central portion of the church and the east portico entrance was added in 1910/11 and designed by architect James Patrick Hynes (Toronto Public Library TSPA_0111083F)
2020 – Wooden pews in the nave and the organ gallery inside Our Lady of Lourdes Church. Notice the beautiful coffered barrel-vaulted ceiling supported on each side by an arcade
2020 – Wooden pews in the nave and the organ gallery inside Our Lady of Lourdes Church. Notice the beautiful coffered barrel-vaulted ceiling supported on each side by an arcade
1972 - Looking southwest from Sherbourne St towards Earl St and Our Lady of Lourdes Church in the Upper Jarvis neighbourhood. This now north portion of the church, along with the dome and bell tower, was the original structure, built in 1885/86 and designed by architect Frederick Charles Law
1972 – Looking southwest from Sherbourne St towards Earl St and Our Lady of Lourdes Church in the Upper Jarvis neighbourhood. This now north portion of the church, along with the dome and bell tower, was the original structure, built in 1885/86 and designed by architect Frederick Charles Law (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 2032, Series 841, File 7, Item 10)
2021 – Steps lead up to the altar at Our Lady of Lourdes Church. It features the scene of The Last Supper. The altar is surmounted by a canopy made of creamy-yellow limestone, and it’s directly beneath the dome
2021 – Steps lead up to the altar at Our Lady of Lourdes Church. It features the scene of The Last Supper. The altar is surmounted by a canopy made of creamy-yellow limestone, and it’s directly beneath the dome
2020 – The east portico entrance of Our Lady of Lourdes Church at 520 Sherbourne St. The stone portico is supported by four Doric columns, and the frieze is inscribed with "SHRINE OF OUR LADY OF LOURDES"
2020 – The east portico entrance of Our Lady of Lourdes Church at 520 Sherbourne St. The stone portico is supported by four Doric columns, and the frieze is inscribed with “SHRINE OF OUR LADY OF LOURDES”
1972 - Looking west along Wellesley Ln (today known as Lourdes Ln) from Sherbourne St towards the east portico of Our Lady of Lourdes Church. The building on the left is the rear of the former Wellesley Hospital
1972 – Looking west along Wellesley Ln (today known as Lourdes Ln) from Sherbourne St towards the east portico of Our Lady of Lourdes Church. The building on the left is the rear of the former Wellesley Hospital (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 2032, Series 841, File 7, Item 11)
2022 – Looking west along Lourdes Ln from Sherbourne St in the Upper Jarvis neighbourhood of Toronto. On the right side is the east entrance of Our Lady of Lourdes Church
2022 – Looking west along Lourdes Ln from Sherbourne St in the Upper Jarvis neighbourhood of Toronto. On the right side is the east entrance of Our Lady of Lourdes Church
2020 – Our Lady of Lourdes statue depicts Bernadette appealing to the Virgin Mary. In 1858 in the town of Lourdes, France, a 14-year-old peasant girl named Bernadette Soubirous saw a series of apparitions of the Virgin Mary. In 1933, she was canonized by Pope Pius XI and became Saint Bernadette
2020 – Our Lady of Lourdes statue depicts Bernadette appealing to the Virgin Mary. In 1858 in the town of Lourdes, France, a 14-year-old peasant girl named Bernadette Soubirous saw a series of apparitions of the Virgin Mary. In 1933, she was canonized by Pope Pius XI and became Saint Bernadette
2020 – The dome at Our Lady of Lourdes Church is made of wood and clad with Muntz metal (a brass alloy made of mainly copper and zinc). Built in 1885/86, it’s pierced with eight windows and topped with a skylight and cross. Our Lady of Lourdes was Toronto's first domed church
2020 – The dome at Our Lady of Lourdes Church is made of wood and clad with Muntz metal (a brass alloy made of mainly copper and zinc). Built in 1885/86, it’s pierced with eight windows and topped with a skylight and cross. Our Lady of Lourdes was Toronto’s first domed church
1933 – Firefighters battling a fire at Our Lady of Lourdes Church. Lightning struck the dome, which caused the blaze
1933 – Firefighters battling a fire at Our Lady of Lourdes Church. Lightning struck the dome, which caused the blaze (Toronto Public Library TSPA_0111085F)
1910 - Postcard of Our Lady of Lourdes Church located at 520 Sherbourne St in the Upper Jarvis neighbourhood. This is a depiction of the original church, just before the major addition to its south side
1910 – Postcard of Our Lady of Lourdes Church located at 520 Sherbourne St in the Upper Jarvis neighbourhood. This is a depiction of the original church, just before the major addition to its south side (Toronto Public Library PC176)
2022 – The cornerstone at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church reads: "D.O.M. - J.M.J. - XXV XXV ANNIV. - MDCCCLXXXIV."
The abbreviations mean: Deo Optimo Maximo (God Best Greatest) - Jesus Mary Joseph - 25th Anniversary - 1884
2022 – The cornerstone at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church reads:

“D.O.M. – J.M.J. – XXV XXV ANNIV. – MDCCCLXXXIV.”

The abbreviations mean: Deo Optimo Maximo (God Best Greatest) – Jesus Mary Joseph – 25th Anniversary – 1884
2021 – Looking west towards Our Lady of Lourdes Church from Sherbourne St, just south of Earl St. The church was built in two phases - the tower and original building on the right were constructed in 1885/86, while the centre and left additions were built in 1910/11
2021 – Looking west towards Our Lady of Lourdes Church from Sherbourne St, just south of Earl St. The church was built in two phases – the tower and original building on the right were constructed in 1885/86, while the centre and left additions were built in 1910/11
2020 – The heritage plaque reads:

Church of Our Lady of Lourdes 
1886-1986 Centennial 

"This church was erected as a gift from the clergy of the Archdiocese to the Most Reverend John Joseph Lynch, D.D., the first Roman Catholic Archbishop of Toronto, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of his consecration. The original church was dedicated on 28 October 1886. The surrounding lands, known as St John's Grove, had since 1876 been the site of the Archbishop's summer residence and contained a grotto honouring Our Lady of Lourdes. Parts of that residence are still in use as the Church Hall. The original building, modelled after Santa Maria del Populo in Rome, was designed by Frederick Charles Law, R.N. In 1910, alterations by James P Hynes, architect, included the addition of the present nave and the incorporation of the former church as the sanctuary." 

Toronto Historical Board - 1986
2020 – The heritage plaque reads:

Church of Our Lady of Lourdes
1886-1986 Centennial

“This church was erected as a gift from the clergy of the Archdiocese to the Most Reverend John Joseph Lynch, D.D., the first Roman Catholic Archbishop of Toronto, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of his consecration. The original church was dedicated on 28 October 1886. The surrounding lands, known as St John’s Grove, had since 1876 been the site of the Archbishop’s summer residence and contained a grotto honouring Our Lady of Lourdes. Parts of that residence are still in use as the Church Hall. The original building, modelled after Santa Maria del Populo in Rome, was designed by Frederick Charles Law, R.N. In 1910, alterations by James P Hynes, architect, included the addition of the present nave and the incorporation of the former church as the sanctuary.”

Toronto Historical Board – 1986
2022 – Looking southeast towards Our Lady of Lourdes Rectory at 41 Earl St. The heritage-designated priests' home was built in 1910/11 and designed by Herbert E Moore. The residence continues to house the Jesuit community and is also the church office
2022 – Looking southeast towards Our Lady of Lourdes Rectory at 41 Earl St. The heritage-designated priests’ home was built in 1910/11 and designed by Herbert E Moore. The residence continues to house the Jesuit community and is also the church office
1911 - Looking southeast towards Our Lady of Lourdes Rectory at 41 Earl St, the year the residence was completed
1911 – Looking southeast towards Our Lady of Lourdes Rectory at 41 Earl St, the year the residence was completed (Construction journal)
2022 – Our Lady of Lourdes Rectory, at 41 Earl St, is located beside the church, to its west. The home is the church office and also houses the Jesuit community
2022 – Our Lady of Lourdes Rectory, at 41 Earl St, is located beside the church, to its west. The home is the church office and also houses the Jesuit community
2020 – Our Lady of Lourdes Roman Catholic Church sign
2020 – Our Lady of Lourdes Roman Catholic Church sign
1899 - Goads Map showing the location of St John's Grove and the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes, prior to the 1910/11 south side addition
1899 – Goads Map showing the location of St John’s Grove and the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes, prior to the 1910/11 south side addition (Toronto Public Library)
Circa 1900 – Sketch of Our Lady of Lourdes Roman Catholic Church looking northwest from Sherbourne St. Built in 1885/86, architect Frederick Charles Law modelled the church after Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome
Circa 1900 – Sketch of Our Lady of Lourdes Roman Catholic Church looking northwest from Sherbourne St. Built in 1885/86, architect Frederick Charles Law modelled the church after Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome (Toronto Public Library R-668)
1625 - A print of the church of Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome by Giovanni Maggi. Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Toronto was modelled after Santa Maria del Popolo
1625 – A print of the church of Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome by Giovanni Maggi. Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Toronto was modelled after Santa Maria del Popolo (Courtesy of Giovanni Maggi, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)
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