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Visiting the Cathedral Church of St James, Toronto, Ontario: re-inventing the skyscaper, with Medieval inspiration?

Updated on January 12, 2013
Provincial flag of Ontario
Provincial flag of Ontario | Source
Spire of the Cathedral Church of St James, Toronto, Ontario
Spire of the Cathedral Church of St James, Toronto, Ontario | Source
Cathedral Church of St James, Toronto, Ontario
Cathedral Church of St James, Toronto, Ontario | Source
Map location of Toronto, Ontario
Map location of Toronto, Ontario | Source

Breathtaking edifice; one of Canada's great sights

Dating from 1853, one of the salient features of the Cathedral Church of St James, Toronto, Ontario, is its enormous spire. At 92.9 metres, the spire was in its day an amazing skyscraper. When one considers some of the late 19th century office buildings in New York City which vied with one another in their height, one can see just how impressive an architectural feat was the spire of this Anglican Cathedral Church in Toronto.

For example, the Park Row Building in New York City, when opened in 1899, was the tallest office building in the world, at 119.2 metres: taller than, but not hugely so, this spire of this great Cathedral building, which predated it by 25 years, the spire itself dates from 1873/74, the work of architect Henry Langley. The main building itself was the responsibility of architects Frederick William Cumberland and Thomas Ridout.

Being in Gothic Revival style, the design of the Cathedral Church of St James draws inspiration from the European Middle Ages, an era when tall Cathedral buildings were already a feature of not a few urban skylines (1).

Its building materials were a combination of Ohio stone and brick. Both externally and internally, the pointed arch is a prominent and frequently recurring feature, as are many pinnacles. These features combine to give the structure its strongly Gothic look.

The Anglican parish with which the Cathedral Church is chiefly identified dates from 1797. Particularly since the inception of the spire in the 1870s, the edifice has become one of Canada's great sights.

The Cathedral Church of St James is located at 65 Church Street, Toronto, Ontario, at the intersection of King and Church Streets.

January 12, 2013


(1) For example, the amazing Cathedral at Lincoln, England, rises to a height of 143.3 metres, having been completed in 1311, and from that year until 1549 it was reckoned to be the tallest building in the world.

Also worth seeing

In Downtown Toronto , notable, historic buildings include the nearby St. Lawrence Hall, E J Lennox's Old City Hall; the Legislative Assembly of Ontario building; St Michael's Cathedral; Osgoode Hall; Campbell House; the United Metropolitan Church; and many others.


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

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

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