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Visiting St. Alphonsus Church, St. Clair Avenue, Toronto, Ontario: A Statement in Neo-Gothic, Dating From 1911

Updated on May 14, 2020
Provincial flag of Ontario
Provincial flag of Ontario | Source
St. Alphonsus Church in Toronto
St. Alphonsus Church in Toronto | Source

A building with a sense of solidity; with a history of multiple church usage

[This visit took place a number of months ago.]

This church building does not look like a typical Roman Catholic parish church building: while the tower and Ne0-Gothic styling are not in question, the fact that its functionality incorporates various rooms into the main design of the structure would in some ways set it apart from other, typically Roman Catholic buildings.

Well, the short explanation is that originally it was not a Roman Catholic building.

It has, in fact, a somewhat complex history from its inception in 1911 (1).

Firstly, the building was erected for the us of a Presbyterian congregation (2).

Subsequently it because a United Church building, after many (not all) Presbyterian congregations in Canada joined with many Methodists and formed the United Church of Canada.

Only after 1966, when the United Church vacated the building did what is now St Alphonsus Church become Roman Catholic. Hence a design which is perhaps a little unusual for Roman Catholic parish churches. The crucifix over the main entrance is highly likely an addition since the days of the United Church or Presbyterian use of the building, since such an object would be historically unusual among church circles with Protestant roots.

Executed in brick, with stone facing, the building exhibits a strong sense of solidity and monumentality. The pronounced sense of Neo-Gothic styling includes large pointed window arches and a pointed arch main entrance at the building's St. Clair Avenue elevation; many, very visible flying buttresses only reinforce the style.

The building underwent modification in 1929.

Often a church tower is by far the most conspicuous feature of the building; here at what is now St. Alphonsus' Church the tower is both very conspicuous but also because the remainder of the building is almost as tall as the tower itself, the tower's profile is not uniquely preponderant. In combination the lines of the many flying buttresses, the overall profile of the building has a stronger sense of rectangularity than is sometimes the case. While in some Neo-Gothic buildings, a profusion of pinnacles is present also, this is not the case at St. Alphonsus' Church.

St Alphonsus Roman Catholic Church is at 448 St. Clair Avenue West, Toronto, Ontario. One side of the building is also highly visible from the adjoining Vaughan Road, since the building its located at a corner plot. To traffic both on St. Clair Avenue West and on Vaughan Road, the building is indeed truly hard to miss

May 12, 2020


(1) See also:

(2) A previous, Presbyterian-connected building on the site was demolished.

Map location of Toronto, Ontario
Map location of Toronto, Ontario | Source

In Toronto itself, other among numerous historic church buildings are included the Metropolitan United Church, St James's and St. Michael's Cathedrals; a very few of other noted buildings include: the Ontario Legislative Assembly Building, Queen's Park, Old City Hall, Osgoode Hall, Campbell House, Old Fort York.


How to get there: Air Canada, flies to Toronto Pearson Airport, with wide North American and other connections, from where car rental is available. TTC streetcar ... passes close to ... Toronto. Some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. For any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities, please refer to appropriate consular sources.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.


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