St. James Cathedral

A Toronto landmark, St. James Cathedral (also known as The Cathedral Church of St. James) is the city’s oldest Anglican church. It boasts spectacular architecture, stunning stained glass windows and the only set of change-ringing bells in Canada. The steeple of St. James’ soars 300 feet over the city, making it the tallest in the country and one of the tallest in the world. The magnificent structure, located in Downtown Toronto, is listed as a Provincial Historic Site. Click to book your Toronto tours.

History of the Church

St. James Cathedral - Toronto's Oldest Congregation
St. James Cathedral: Toronto's oldest congregation
Established in 1797, St. James’ Cathedral houses the oldest congregation in the city. The parish first worshipped under the trees and in temporary buildings until 1807, when a wooden structure was built. In 1833, the wooden church was replaced by a stone one. That Neo-classical stone church was destroyed by fire in January 1839. In December of that same year, St. James’ was elevated to cathedral status. A decade later, another fire destroyed the cathedral. A new structure was built and reopened for services in 1853 on the original site.

Gothic Revival Architecture

The St. James’ Cathedral that stands today was designed by architect Frederick Cumberland. The design of the towering cathedral reflects the early English Gothic Revival style of architecture. In the mid-19th century, it was the largest building in the city. In 1865, the bells were put in and the spire was completed in 1875. A year later, the clock tower was donated by the citizens of Toronto. In 1889, an organ console was installed which was modernized at the beginning of the 20th century by renowned Quebec organ builders Casavant Freres. St. James’ underwent major renovations in the early 80's and in 1997 the twelve change ringing bells (one of only two sets on the continent) were installed to celebrate the cathedral's bicentennial. The beautiful stained glass windows that adorn St. James’ are remarkable works of art, radiating dazzling colour and light. From the panels above the high altar to the west porch window which depicts The Calling of St. James, these stunning windows illuminate the cathedral with vibrant light and energy while depicting biblical stories.

The Cemetery

St. James’ Cemetery is the oldest operating cemetery in Toronto. It was opened in 1844 at Bloor and Parliament Streets after the burial ground around St. James’ Cathedral became too crowded. At the time, the location was considered quite a distance from the city center. Fathers of Confederation William Howland and James Cockburn are laid to rest here, as are several other prominent Toronto citizens. The Chapel of St. James-the-Less, which opened in 1861, is located inside the main gates of the cemetery and is another example of Gothic Revival style architecture with its stone walls and tall spire. This funeral chapel was designated as a National Historic Site in 1990.

The Bells of Old York

St. James’ Cathedral is home to North America’s first full set of change ringing bells, the Bells of Old York. Each week, the St. James’ Cathedral’s Guild of Change Ringers ring this set of twelve bells, the only set of its kind in Canada. Installed in 1997 to celebrate the bicentennial of St. James’, they are located one hundred feet high in the cathedral’s tower and spire. The tower also features ten carillon-style chime bells which ring throughout the city on the clock quarters.

Concerts and Events at St. James’

St. James Cathedral - Toronto's Oldest Anglican Church
Photo Credit: Michael Hudson
The choirs and music program are an integral part of the services at St. James’ Cathedral. Several concerts are offered to the public free of charge, including the “Music at Midday" and and “Twilight Recital” recital series which are held every Tuesday at 1pm and Sunday at 4pm, respectively, year round. The cathedral also hosts many community events and educational programs. Click to book your Toronto City Hop-On Hop-Off Tour.

Visiting St. James Cathedral

St. James Cathedral is open every day of the year and welcomes visitors to take self-led tours of the building, and specially organized and educational tours can also be arranged. Services are offered every day, with five services on Sundays (visit stjamescathedral.ca/sundayservices for times). Visitors interested in seeing the Bell Tower should indicate this in advance as special arrangements must be coordinated.

Location: 106 King Street East, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M5C 2E9

Click here to visit St. James Cathedral official website.

Published On: 2018-10-16
Updated On: 2019-06-12

Note: This information can change without notice. Confirm all details directly with the company in question.

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