TORONTO — The oldest Catholic church in the Archdiocese of Toronto reopens temporarily this week in the midst of a multi-million dollar historic restoration project.
Designed by architect William Thomas in the Gothic Revival style and built in the 1840s, St. Michael’s Cathedral closed to the public last June after concerns about its structural integrity in the midst of extensive renovations.
Six months later, the cathedral reopened for a two-day open house to show the progress of work.
“Everything we do has the context not only of architecture but of the liturgy of the Catholic faith as well,” said Marc Ferguson of Buttcon Limited, the contractor overseeing the project.
Inside the church, visitors can see new concrete pillars replacing existing ones that were replaced after it was discovered mortar was failing.
Carpet is being replaced with stone flooring.
“Connemara marble from Ireland [is being used which speaks to Bishop Power, [the first bishop of Toronto], and the construction of the cathedral originally,” said Richard Carbino of Traditional Cut Stone, the company supplying stone for the project.
Stars set against a sky blue setting have been painted on a refreshed cathedral ceiling. New pews will replace existing ones.
Fahad Nargol-O’Neill, the cathedral’s artist in residence, is designing bronze doors that will welcome parishioners and guests when the cathedral reopens fully in September 2016.
Beneath the cathedral — where 67 Catholics are buried, including three former bishops — construction crews have expanded a narrow crawl space by about five metres. The lower floor will include a crypt chapel with overflow seating that will expand the cathedral’s capacity by about 300. A new elevator and lift will service the lower floor.
For the first time, the cathedral also has men’s and women’s washrooms with stainless steel fixtures, and the cathedral’s mechanical and electrical systems have been completely overhauled.
“It was built without electricity, no plumbing, no heating, there were wood stoves to heat the building,” said Father Michael Busch, the cathedral’s rector.
On Dec. 8 and 9, visitors can check out the progress of the restoration project. The cathedral will be open for Christmas masses before closing again until Easter week.
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