St Mary’s Church – Magnificent French Gothic Revival Architecture

1960s - Looking northwest from Bathurst St and Adelaide St W towards St Mary's Roman Catholic Church
1960s – Looking northwest from Bathurst St and Adelaide St W towards St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1128, Series 1057, Item 372)

St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church is located at 130 Bathurst St (between Adelaide St W and Portugal Sq on the west side) in the Niagara neighbourhood of Toronto.

Its Early History

The church’s history dates to 1835, when the first bishop of Upper Canada, Alexander Macdonell, requested a piece of land for Toronto’s Roman Catholic population. Lieutenant-Governor Sir Francis Bond Head granted a lot in the northeast corner of the Garrison reserve on the condition the seats would be free for military personnel. The land had previously served as an emergency cemetery for cholera victims during the 1832 and 1834 epidemics; however, this only became known when many unmarked graves were discovered while digging the church’s foundation.

The First Two St Mary’s Churches

2020 - St Mary's Roman Catholic Church 130 Bathurst St
2020 – St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church 130 Bathurst St

In 1852, the first church was built. It was a small white brick structure measuring 30 x 13 m or 100 x 42 ft. While St Mary’s was the third Roman Catholic parish in Toronto, it was the only one on the west side. The two existing Catholic churches on the east side were St Paul’s and St Michael’s.

In 1858, when the foundations of the first St Mary’s began sinking, it was taken down.

In 1860, St Mary’s school was constructed on the property and the second church was consecrated. The church, however, was built on those same unstable foundations. Even though iron girders were installed to prop it up, the second church also experienced structural issues over time.

Its congregation was growing rapidly, so in 1883, prominent architect Joseph Connolly was selected to design the present-day church. He designed many Roman Catholic churches throughout Ontario. The building of the third St Mary’s Church began in 1885 and, at the time, cost $70,000. The congregation attended its first service in 1889.

St Mary’s Beautiful Architecture

2020 - The lofty nave, granite columns rising to pointed gothic arches, carved angel corbels, stained glass windows and groined chancel ceiling on the interior of St Mary's Church
2020 – The lofty nave, granite columns rising to pointed gothic arches, carved angel corbels, stained glass windows and groined chancel ceiling on the interior of St Mary’s Church

The French Gothic Revival-style church is a cruciform shape. It’s made of white brick and Ohio sandstone dressings, while the vaulted roof is made of white pine. St Mary’s great tower is flanked by supporting wings. Other exterior architectural elements of the facade include three entrances, polished granite pillars of various colours, rose windows with tracery and the building as a whole, is finished with finials and crosses.

Inside the magnificent church, the soaring nave seats 600 people. It features warm-toned wooden pews, pointed Gothic arches springing from richly decorated blue granite pillars, carved angel corbels, stained-glass windows depicting religious images, frescoes and a groined chancel ceiling.

Due to a shortage of funds, the church tower’s belfry and octagonal spire were not added until 1904/05. They were designed by Arthur Holmes, who was Joseph Connolly’s protégé.

The Complex of Buildings at the Historic Church

Through the years, a few buildings have been added at St Mary’s Church, including:

The Rectory
In 1873, architect Henry Langley designed the rectory. It’s located near the southwest corner of the property.

The Nuns Chapel and “Old” St Mary’s Separate School
What is known today as 9 Portugal Sq was built in 1877. The structure was designed by architect GH Lalor, and it once extended to Bathurst St. Now linked directly to the church structure, today it serves as church facilities and the rehearsal hall for the Santo Cristo Brass Band.

St Mary’s Separate School
At 11 Portugal Sq is the 1889-built St Mary’s Separate School. Designed by architects Kennedy & Holland, today, the building is the Parish Hall. This building should not be confused with the present-day, 1918-built St Mary’s Catholic Elementary School across the street at 20 Portugal Sq.

St Mary’s Catholic Literary and Athletic Association, Today’s Factory Theatre
Across the street, on the northeast corner of Adelaide St W and Bathurst St was St Mary’s Catholic Literary and Athletic Association. It’s a combination of two buildings. The first that fronts Bathurst St was constructed in 1869 and known as the John Mulvey House. The second is the large extension that faces Adelaide St W. Designed by architect JM Cowan the building cost $50,000 to build and was formally opened in 1911. The clubhouse featured a bowling alley, a large pool room, gym and showers on the ground floor, while the top floor housed a 700-seat assembly hall, a library and more.

Today, no longer owned by St Mary’s Church, this structure is the Factory Theatre. The heritage building still has many original elements, including the maple bowling alley floor in the Studio Theatre as well as the proscenium arch and balcony in the Main Space Theatre.

2022 – Looking west along Adelaide St W towards St Mary's Church on Bathurst St
2022 – Looking west along Adelaide St W towards St Mary’s Church on Bathurst St

Welcoming Worshippers for Over 165 Years

St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church has been home to many immigrants. First, the Irish who were fleeing the potato famine, then Ukrainian and Polish and, in the 1960s, Portuguese parishioners. Activities for the annual Portuguese Santo Cristo Festival centre around the church.

St Mary’s tower, one of the most beautiful in the City, and the east facade completed a restoration this past decade. Masses are available in English and Portuguese.

Did You Know?

  • When travelling west along Adelaide St near Bathurst St, in the distance, notice the street ends with a beautiful view of St Mary’s Church.
  • For decades, what we know today as Portugal Square, was called McDonnell Square. It was named in honour of Bishop Alexander McDonnell (Macdonell).
  • In 1973, St Mary’s Church was part of Heritage Toronto’s initial induction list. In 1983, the rectory and school buildings received heritage designation.

St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church Photos

1950 - St Mary's Roman Catholic Church, looking west from Adelaide St W
1950 – St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, looking west from Adelaide St W (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1128, Series 380, Item 110)
2020 - St Mary's Roman Catholic Church 130 Bathurst St, opposite Adelaide St W
2020 – St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church 130 Bathurst St, opposite Adelaide St W
1960s - Looking northwest from Bathurst St and Adelaide St W towards St Mary's Roman Catholic Church
1960s – Looking northwest from Bathurst St and Adelaide St W towards St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1128, Series 1057, Item 372)
1900s – St Mary's Roman Catholic Church before its belfry and spire, designed by Arthur William Holmes, were added in 1904/05
1900s – St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church before its belfry and spire, designed by Arthur William Holmes, were added in 1904/05 (Toronto Public Library R-6469)
2020 - The lofty nave, granite columns rising to pointed gothic arches, carved angel corbels, stained glass windows and groined chancel ceiling on the interior of St Mary's Church
2020 – The lofty nave, granite columns rising to pointed gothic arches, carved angel corbels, stained glass windows and groined chancel ceiling on the interior of St Mary’s Church
1960's - St Mary's Roman Catholic Church interior
1960’s – St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church interior (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 376)
2020 - The tower entrance of St Mary's Church at 130 Bathurst St
2020 – The tower entrance of St Mary’s Church at 130 Bathurst St
1930 – Streetcar track construction in front of St Mary's Roman Catholic Church at Bathurst St and Adelaide St W
1930 – Streetcar track construction in front of St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church at Bathurst St and Adelaide St W (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 16, Series 71, Item 7760)
2020 - St Mary's Church organ
2020 – St Mary’s Church organ
2020 - St Mary's Church stained glass windows
2020 – St Mary’s Church stained glass windows
2020 - The light-filled and lofty nave of St Mary's Roman Catholic Church - notice the warm colour of the wooden pews, the pointed Gothic arches springing from polished blue granite pillars and the stained glass windows
2020 – The light-filled and lofty nave of St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church – notice the warm colour of the wooden pews, the pointed Gothic arches springing from polished blue granite pillars and the stained glass windows
2020 – The east facade of St Mary's Roman Catholic Church, including the three entrances, rose windows with tracery, the great tower and the building as a whole, is finished with finials and crosses
2020 – The east facade of St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, including the three entrances, rose windows with tracery, the great tower and the building as a whole, is finished with finials and crosses
2022 - The top of St Mary's Church tower
2022 – The top of St Mary’s Church tower
2022 - The Rectory was built in 1873 and it's located near the southwest corner of St Mary's property
2022 – The Rectory was built in 1873 and it’s located near the southwest corner of St Mary’s property
2022 - Built in 1877, 9 Portugal Sq was the Nuns Chapel and the "Old" St Mary's Separate School. Today the building is the rehearsal hall for the Santo Cristo Brass Band and is also used for church facilities
2022 – Built in 1877, 9 Portugal Sq was the Nuns Chapel and the “Old” St Mary’s Separate School. Today the building is the rehearsal hall for the Santo Cristo Brass Band and is also used for church facilities
2022 - 11 Portugal Sq was built in 1889 and was originally St Mary's Separate School. Today it serves as the Parish Hall
2022 – 11 Portugal Sq was built in 1889 and was originally St Mary’s Separate School. Today it serves as the Parish Hall
2022 - A statue of Alexander Macdonell. In 1835, Alexander Macdonell, the first Bishop of Upper Canada, requested the piece of land that St Mary's resides on for Toronto's Roman Catholic population. Portugal Square was originally named Macdonnell Square, in his honour
2022 – A statue of Alexander Macdonell. In 1835, Alexander Macdonell, the first Bishop of Upper Canada, requested the piece of land that St Mary’s resides on for Toronto’s Roman Catholic population. Portugal Square was originally named Macdonnell Square, in his honour
2022 - St Mary's Church is built on land that once served as an emergency cemetery for cholera victims during the 1832 and 1834 epidemics. This memorial is in their honour
2022 – St Mary’s Church is built on land that once served as an emergency cemetery for cholera victims during the 1832 and 1834 epidemics. This memorial is in their honour
2022 - Sculpture of Madre Teresa da Anunciada at St Mary's Chruch
2022 – Sculpture of Madre Teresa da Anunciada at St Mary’s Chruch
2021 – Looking east from Adelaide St W and Portugal Sq towards St Mary's Church - a view from the back
2021 – Looking east from Adelaide St W and Portugal Sq towards St Mary’s Church – a view from the back
2022 - The cornerstone at St Mary's Church was laid on August 15, 1885 - between the numbers "18" and "85" are the overlapping letters A and M which stand for Ave Maria
2022 – The cornerstone at St Mary’s Church was laid on August 15, 1885 – between the numbers “18” and “85” are the overlapping letters A and M which stand for Ave Maria
2022 - St Mary's Church plaque - Joseph Connolly, Architect
2022 – St Mary’s Church plaque – Joseph Connolly, Architect
2021 - Once St Mary’s Catholic Literary and Athletic Association, today the building is home to the Factory Theatre at 125 Bathurst St and Adelaide St E
2021 – Once St Mary’s Catholic Literary and Athletic Association, today the building is home to the Factory Theatre at 125 Bathurst St and Adelaide St E
1982 – Looking west towards St Mary's Church from Bathurst St and Adelaide St W
1982 – Looking west towards St Mary’s Church from Bathurst St and Adelaide St W (Toronto Public Library LOCHIST-SA-026)
1956 – A view of St Mary's Church, looking west from Adelaide St W towards Bathurst St
1956 – A view of St Mary’s Church, looking west from Adelaide St W towards Bathurst St (Toronto Public Library R-5634)
2022 – Looking west along Adelaide St W towards St Mary's Church on Bathurst St
2022 – Looking west along Adelaide St W towards St Mary’s Church on Bathurst St
Sketch of St Mary's Church at Bathurst St and Adelaide St W
Sketch of St Mary’s Church at Bathurst St and Adelaide St W (Landmarks of Toronto Volume 4 by J Ross Robertson – 1904)
1901 - Sketch of St Mary's Church – the spire, designed by Arthur William Holmes, was not added until 1905
1901 – Sketch of St Mary’s Church – the spire, designed by Arthur William Holmes, was not added until 1905 (Landmarks of Toronto Volume 4 by J Ross Robertson – 1904)
1910 - Goads Map showing the location of St Mary's Roman Catholic Church and complex of buildings within McDonnell Square, which today is called Portugal Square
1910 – Goads Map showing the location of St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church and complex of buildings within McDonnell Square, which today is called Portugal Square (Toronto Public Library)
SOURCE

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here