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Visiting the So-Called Cathedral of Methodism in Toronto, Ontario: Major Landmark on Queen Street East
Grandly proportioned United Metropolitan Church evoking Victorian confidence
This imposing building, sometimes known as the 'Cathedral of Methodism', is situated at #56 on Toronto's Queen Street East. Its style is described as High Victorian Gothic.
While Methodism has its origins in the 18th century, this building very much evokes the confidence of the 19th century Victorian era. The widely known Methodist educator Dr. Egerton Ryerson (1803-1882), for whom one of Toronto's universities is named (1), laid the foundation stone in 1870 and the building was completed in 1872. Previously, local Methodists of the same congregation had met at a building at Adelaide and Toronto Streets, and, earlier in the 19th century, in a small building at King and Jordan Streets from 1818 onwards.
This building was designed by Henry Langley. The architect sought to imitate a Medieval French cathedral. In 1925 this building saw the inception of the United Church, into which the larger body of Methodism was merged. It contains what has been described as the largest pipe organ in Canada.
Some history of Methodism
In some ways, English Canada's church history has close links with that of England. Methodism's John Wesley, the widely travelled Anglican who lived in the 18th century, exemplified the simplicity of the activities — Bible reading and proclamation, prayer and hymn singing — for which early Methodism was known, and Wesley himself did not found the denomination, which later became various denominations, which was to carry his name. After his death, his followers became much more institutionalized. Thus it was only in the 19th century that this 'Cathedral of Methodism' became possible. Toronto was sometimes referred to as a 'Methodist Rome', and this building thus evokes a thoroughly institutionalized monumentality — already seen in the Roman Catholic Church in Medieval times in Europe — which would not have been easily conceived within Methodism in John Wesley's 18th century lifetime. Visitors familiar with church architecture in London, England may recall Westminster Chapel, referred to sometimes as the 'Nonconformist Cathedral', which, in the view of one of its ministers, was strictly a contradiction in terms!
(1) A grand statue of Dr. Egerton Ryerson may be seen outside Ryerson University.
Also worth seeing
The visitor attractions and cultural sites of the Greater Toronto Area are far too numerous to summarize adequately here. But a few of these include the following:
In Downtown Toronto, close neighbours of the United Metropolitan Church are St Michael's Roman Catholic Cathedral and St James's Anglican Cathedral, both with tall spires which are local landmarks. Almost opposite St Michael's Cathedral on Bond Street is Mackenzie House, former home of William Lyon Mackenzie, at #82, now a museum. Also on Queen Street East, and adjacent to the Eaton Centre renowned among shoppers, is Old City Hall, dating from 1899. On Queen Street West are the imposing Osgoode Hall and the historic Campbell House.
Further east along Queen Street East is the Ashbridge Estate (distance: 6.1 kilometres), associated for over 200 years with the family whose name the property bears. The centrepiece building dates from 1854.
The Thomson Settlement and Scarborough Historical Museum (distance: 19.8 kilometres) situated in the Thomson Memorial Park, Scarborough, comprises Cornell House and the McCowan Log House.
How to get there: Air Canada, flies to Toronto Pearson Airport, with wide North American and other connections, from where car rental is available. However, visitors to Downtown Toronto will find the Metropolitan United Church site and nearby visitor attractions to be easily walkable. Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. 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.