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Symbolism of the Coat of Arms for St Michael’s Cathedral Basilica
The coat of arms for St Michael’s Cathedral Basilica has at the top of the shield the ombrellino and on each side, the keys of St. Peter. These represent its status as a basilica and its relationship to the Papal See. The elements within the shield represent St. Michael and his four responsibilities in the Christian tradition.
The first is to combat Satan, who is shown as a dragon. The second and third are symbolized by the scales. St Michael will first use the scales at the last judgement to weigh the souls of all the people and then escort the faithful to the heavenly kingdom.
The fourth is to be a champion and protector of all Christians, and of the Church itself. This is symbolized by the sword piercing the dragon showing his defeat. The symbols are placed on a field of green, representing the early Irish immigrants whose contributions built the Cathedral.
The motto “Quis ut Deus” at the base of the shield is in Latin, meaning “Who [is] like God?”, a literal translation of the name Michael.
Significance of a Cathedral Basilica
Minor basilica is a title given to some Roman Catholic churches. According to canon law, no church building can be honoured with the title of basilica unless by apostolic grant from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
The designation shows the Cathedral’s precedence before other churches. As the church of our Archbishop it is the mother church of the archdiocese and is a place where the faithful have gathered for major feasts and celebrations at the civic, provincial and federal levels for the past 168 years. It is not only an important building for the Catholic faithful. It has also been designated as an important heritage building for the City of Toronto.
The designation imposes on basilicas the obligation to celebrate the liturgy with special care, and requires that a church for which a grant of the title has been given should be liturgically dedicated to God and be outstanding as a centre of active and pastoral liturgy, setting an example for others.
It should be sufficiently large and with an ample sanctuary. It should be renowned for history, relics or sacred images, and should be served by a sufficient number of priests and other ministers and by an adequate choir.
An external sign of the basilica can be seen in the ombrellino, made of yellow and red silk and bearing the coat of arms of the Holy See, the Archdiocese of Toronto and St. Michael’s Cathedral, and the tintinnabulum. These are traditionally carried in procession at the head of the clergy when the Pope visits or on important state occasions. Both represent the Cathedral’s association with both the Papal See and the City of Rome. When not in use they are on permanent display in the Cathedral.
St Michael’s Cathedral
By the end of 19th century, the basic configuration of the St Michael’s Cathedral complex was established with the Cathedral, Bishop’s Palace and St. John’s Chapel. Neighbouring institutions, including Loretta Convent (c1880), St. Michael’s Hospital (1892) and St. Michael’s Parish School (1990), contributed to the formation of distinct Roman Catholic precinct.
With the replacement of the original 1822 St. Paul’s Church with a new building in 1887-1889, St. Michael’s Cathedral became the oldest Catholic church in the City of Toronto.
Within the 20th century, the second Vatican Council (1962-1965) or Vatican II had profound effects on the interior of Roman Catholic churches. Almost every church in the Diocese of Toronto renovated its interior as a result of the directives of the Vatican.
St. Michael’s was no exception and the sanctuary underwent significant reorganization at that time. Pope John Paul II visited the Cathedral, Rectory, and St. John’s Chapel in September 1984. St. John’s Chapel in particular, was renovated extensively in advance of the Pope’s visit.
St Michael’s Cathedral endures as the principal church of the largest English-speaking diocese in Canada. The Bishop’s Palace remains in use as the Cathedral Rectory and is recognized as the oldest building in the City of Toronto still in use for its original purpose.
By Ben Wulfe
By Window: Etienne Thevenot 1858 ; Photo: Wojciech Dittwald
Monday – Friday:
7:00 AM, 8:00 AM, 12:10 PM & 5:30 PM
8:00 AM & 12:10 PM
5:00 PM – Senior Boys’ Choir
8:00 AM – Cantor & Organist
10:00 AM – Junior Boys’ Choir
12:00 Noon – Senior Boys’ Choir
5:00 PM – Cantor & Organist
9:00 PM – Cantor & Guitar
Monday – Friday:
11:30 AM – 12:00 PM
3:00 PM – 4:45 PM
9:15 AM – 9:45 AM
11:15 AM – 11:45 AM
4:15 PM – 4:45 PM
8:15 PM – 8:45 PM
Monday – Friday:
Monday: St. Michael
Tuesday: St. Anthony
Wednesday: Mother of Perpetual Help
Thursday: St. Jude
Friday: Sacred Heart of Jesus
There is no Exposition at this time. (2017)
Prayer to St. Michael
St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our defence against the wickedness and the snares of the Devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly hosts, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.
Established in 1826, the Diocese of Kingston was split to form a new western diocese of the Roman Catholic Church in Upper Canada in 1841. Father Michael Power, who was chosen as the first bishop, selected Toronto as the Episcopal seat.
Bishop Power took possession of his See on June 26, 1842 at St. Paul’s Church. Built in 1822 as the first Roman Catholic parish church in Toronto, St. Paul’s was located at the corner of Power Street and Queens Street East.
Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia on October 17, 1804, Michael Power undertook his classical and theological studies in Quebec and was ordained in 1827. Father Power served as a missionary priest in Quebec before being appointed Vicar General of Montreal in 1839. Upon his consecration in 1842 he became the first English-speaking Bishop to be born in Canada.
In 1842, the Diocese of Toronto included approximately 25,000 Catholics served by 19 priests. At that time, the 3,000 parishioners in the City of Toronto were administered at St. Paul’s, the only Catholic church in the municipality.
Bishop Power quickly determined Toronto needed a new church building to serve as the Cathedral for the rapidly growing Catholic population. By 1845, he had bought land from Captain John McGill for the Cathedral. Bishop Power paid £1,800 for the property of which £500 came from his own funds and balance from collections in the diocese.
The land, which was located on the northern edge of the city and known as McGill Square, was part of Park Lot 7 in Concession 1 from Lake Ontario. There was some criticism initially that the property was too far removed from the settlement centre; however, the quickly expanding city soon encompassed the area.
Noted Toronto architect William Thomas was retained to prepare plans for the new church building. John Harper was named the contractor for the project, although in the style of medieval construction projects, components of the work were undertaken by the community labour.
Excavation began on April 7, 1845, and a cornerstone laying ceremony was held on May 8. Bishop Power laid the cornerstone with a silver trowel, dedicated the cathedral to St. Michael and placed the diocese under the patronage of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Most Pure Heart of Mary. Sealed in the cornerstone were fragments of a stone pillar and pieces of the oak roof from the old Norman York Minster Cathedral in England donated by John Elmsley.
Bishop Power did not live to see the completion of the building he had spearheaded. In January 1847, Power had departed on a six month-month trip to Europe to recruit priests for the growing Diocese of Toronto and to raise money for the Cathedral. The trip took him to Ireland where he witnessed the Great Famine (1845-1851) that would result in the emigration of so many Irish to Canada.
Prior to his return, Bishop Power sent a pastoral letter read in all Catholic churches in and around Toronto, urging congregations to be prepared for the influx of Irish Famine victims. Between May and October 1847 over 38,000 emigrants arrived in Toronto.
With a population of only 20,000, the influx strained local resources. Upon his return to Toronto, Bishop Power administered to the sick and dying, many of who were suffering from typhus. He contracted the fever and died on October 1, 1847.
During Bishop Power’s Episcopate, the number of Catholics in the Diocese of Toronto approximately doubled from 25,000 in 1842 to 50,000 to 1847. During his short term, Bishop Power provided energetic leadership to the Catholic community.
He is remembered for his contributions to the new Diocese of Toronto including the establishment of its operational framework.
The construction of St. Michael’s Cathedral and his compassion to the victims of Irish famine. Although the funeral of Bishop Power was held at St. Paul’s, he was buried in the crypt of the unfinished St. Michael’s Cathedral.
The Bishop’s Palace was built at the same time as the Cathedral to serve as the Episcopal Residence, Chancery Office and Cathedral Rectory.
Also designed by William Thomas, the Bishop’s Palace was completed and blessed in 1846. The chapel in the rectory was dedicated to St. Ambrose on his feast day in 1846. St. Michael’s College was housed in the building from 1852 to 1856 before relocating to a site beside the University of Toronto.