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St. Michael's Cathedral Basilica: Tour One of Toronto's Most Historic Buildings

Posted : Jul-22-2019

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The post below is the second in our summer travel series – chronicling local day-trips in the Archdiocese of Toronto that will get you out of the house and deepen your faith.

St. Michael's Cathedral Basilica

Looking for some quiet respite from the hustle and bustle of downtown Toronto? Hoping to learn some history? Look no further than the newly restored St. Michael's Cathedral Basilica.

Following a major, five-year restoration, the 170-year-old Catholic cathedral was named a basilica by the Vatican. The basilica designation is given to Catholic churches that are "renowned for history, relics or sacred images."

The restoration also opened up space for parishioners and visitors alike to visit, celebrate and reflect.

In response to the many visitors who come to see this, one of Toronto's most historic and beautiful buildings, the cathedral basilica has created a new brochure which aids those wanting to conduct self-directed tours.

For Caroline Fernandez, the Operations Manager, she's looking forward to visitors taking time to step back and reflect upon the grandeur and history of the Cathedral.

"It is certainly magnificent and a living piece of history," Fernandez said.

"Visitors and worshipers alike can expect to feel serenity and peace that comes with entering a profound space like St. Michael's."

For a nominal fee of $5, which contributes printing costs and other cathedral expenses, the brochure helps patrons and visitors understand the following:

Guide to St. Michael's Cathedral

St. Michael's Cathedral was the vision of Bishop Michael Power, who served as Toronto's first bishop from 1841-1847. The cathedral's cornerstone was laid and blessed by Bishop Power on May 8, 1845. The cathedral basilica was designed in the Gothic Revival tradition.

St. Michael's Cathedral Basilica - guide book

Entering the Cathedral

Passing through the narthex and centre doors, you will notice the new organ loft, together with 14 stained glass windows and 14 stations of the cross.

St. Michael's Cathedral Basilica - entrance

Sacred Heart Chapel

This space in the cathedral basilica was dramatically changed during the restoration. In this chapel, you will come across a bronze bust of St. John Paul II, donated by the estate of Gerald Emmett Cardinal Carter (archbishop of Toronto from 1978-1990). The transept itself contains the Chapel of the Sacred Heart. When the diocese was formed in 1842, it was dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary by Bishop Power.

St. Michael's Cathedral Basilica - inside

The Sanctuary

When you stand at the centre of the sanctuary, you come across the choir area, where the world-renowned St. Michael's Choir School sings and accompanies the faithful in various liturgical celebrations. Both the ambo and the altar are carved from Carrara marble, imported from Italy.

St. Michael's Cathedral Basilica - sanctuary

Crypt Chapel

Thanks to the restoration, for the first time in the building's history, the cathedral basilica's crypt is open to the public. There, you can find a working gift shop and chapel, and a space where school and pilgrim groups can meet and celebrate liturgy. The Crypt Chapel also serves as an overflow room when liturgical celebrations are full upstairs in the church.

St. Michael's Cathedral Basilica - crypt chapel

(Photo Credit: Ricardo Aleixo, Sacristan, St. Michael's Cathedral Basilica)

St. Michael's Cathedral Basilica is the mother church of the Archdiocese of Toronto and is home to the seat of Thomas Cardinal Collins. It is an oasis of peace and tranquility, in the heart of a very busy downtown Toronto. It is open Monday to Friday from 6:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m., Saturday from 7:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. and Sunday from 7:30 a.m. – 10:30 p.m. For more information on St. Michael's Cathedral Basilica, please visit