St. Paul’s Church

This excerpt, from an article which appeared in the Dec 23rd Globe+Mail, provides some history of St. Paul’s Church (83 Power Street, just off Queen east of Parliament).

Trefann Street, December 1970… I chose St. Paul’s, partly for its square Tuscan tower and dim interior, but mostly because of the Pieta sculpture in front of the church. The statue itself isn’t particularly attractive, but it commemorates Michael Power, Toronto’s first Catholic bishop. He caught cholera or typhus — accounts differ — from the Irish immigrants to whom he was bringing the last sacraments, and died of it, in 1847. The idea of a bishop who died from ministering to his flock, in downtown Toronto, has always moved me. Power Street is named for him.

The parish’s solidarity with the newest and most disadvantaged Torontonians began with its founding in 1822, when it was the only Catholic church between Kingston and Windsor. Within its first decade, a firebrand Irish priest, William O’Grady, refused to stop preaching against the Family Compact and in support of William Lyon Mackenzie. When the authorities deposed him, he locked himself inside the church and admitted his followers by the back door.

… When the parish outgrew its first church in the 1890s, Joseph Connolly, Ontario’s reigning architect of Catholic churches, built a beauty in rosy Credit Valley stone and Cleveland limestone. The Renaissance basilica style Mr. Connolly chose is anomalous, both in Toronto, which tended to follow the English liking for Gothic Revival churches, and in this poor neighbourhood (now inching toward gentrification). Its symmetrical formality could be off-putting, but if somebody has to have the best house around, who better than God? Especially when it’s shared so generously with the neighbourhood. …

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