St. James Cathedral is a beautiful example of Gothic Revival architecture. Its distinctive tower and spire have been a part of Toronto’s skyline for over a century, and the Bells of Old York, installed in 1997, can be heard pealing on a weekly basis in the St. Lawrence neighbourhood.
Further details on the tower, spire, bells, stained glass and organ are available by expanding the tabs below.
Take a virtual tour of the Cathedral:
The Tower & Spire
The tower and spire of St. James rises 305 feet above the street. Though that is modest in comparison to Toronto’s CN Tower (1815 ft), in terms of bell towers, St. James is among the tallest in the world.Read More
The St. James tower was designed by William Storm and built in 1865-70 to complement the Cathedral nave and sanctuary which were completed in 1853. On completion of the tower part, an impressive clock was donated by the citizens of Toronto. Ten carillon-style chime bells cast by Meneely of Troy, NY were taken to the top of the tower behind the large louvres and continue to be used to both chime the clock quarters and ring for services and weddings when the change ringing bells are not used.
The chime bells are a completely different set of bells compared to the 12 change ringing bells – The Bells of Old York – which were installed to celebrate the Cathedral’s bicentennial in 1997.
The Bells of Old York
One hundred feet high in the tower and spire which crowns St. James Cathedral is a peal of twelve change-ringing bells, the only such ring of 12 in North America. A unique presence in the Cathedral’s musical life, “The Bells of Old York” are rung by members of The St. James Cathedral Guild of Change Ringers.Read More
The 12 bells are arranged into a frame, which sits on a concrete beam circumventing the 6ft thick walls of the tower. This beam in turn is supported into the buttresses of the tower and is especially designed to take the swinging forces of these heavy bells. Each bell is suspended from a “headstock” and can swing between two bearings. On one side of the headstock is an oak wheel with a rope attached at a strategic location. On the opposite side of the bell to the wheel and in the opposite direction to the bell is an ash “stay”. Inside of the bell and pivoted at the top of the bell, is a “clapper.” This is able to swing freely in the same plane as the bell. The ropes from the twelve bells fall in a circle to the “Ringing Chamber,” some 60ft below.
By manipulating a rope, its bell can be “raised” from the mouth downward position, increasingly swinging backwards and forwards until it is fully mouth upwards. This is the bell’s normal ringing position. The purpose of the “stay” is to engage with another piece of wood, the “slider,” in the base of the frame to hold the bell in this upright position between ringing sessions.
Group tours of the bells are arranged by special appointment. Please call the Cathedral office at 416-364-7865. The St. James Cathedral Guild of Change Ringers ring North America’s first full set of 12 change-ringing bells (the only one in Canada, and one of only two installations on the continent) before the 11:00am service on Sundays, beginning as soon as the 9:00am service has ended – usually sometime around 10:10am.
Additional Information about the bells can be downloaded here:
“The windows at St. James Cathedral tell stories both from the Bible and from the history of the Christian Church. But whether from the Bible or from the Church, they all tell of the encounter between God and humanity. So all the stories are luminous with divinity, translucent, and hence wonderfully suitable for the medium of stained glass. Light shines through the glass, making lovely abstract patterns, but it also lights up the pictures, revealing their beauty and reminding us of God’s mysterious presence among all people…”
The Very Reverend Douglas Stoute, 12th Rector of St James Cathedral and 6th Dean of TorontoRead More
“The Calling of St. James” Window
This stained-glass window in the west porch was unveiled and dedicated by Queen Elizabeth II on June 29, 1997. The acid-etched, painted and leaded-mouthblown glass installation, measuring 15’ x 25’, is a memorial for the Governor General’s Horse Guards. It depicts the calling of the Cathedral’s patron, St. James.
The artist is Stuart Reid of Toronto. Reid says, “Colour for me is the presence of life, like a blush on a face or a season’s gift. It represents the transitory, the quickened, the moment… not the eternal / the always. So when colour goes to black or grey, or bleaches to white, it is like losing the colour in one’s face; and when colour emerges out of a neutral or ‘always’ condition, it is transitory life re-emerging. In my stained glass windows, where colour is light and light is colour, I instinctively use purer colours. I openly celebrate the strange enveloping radiance of colour’s energy and life.”
“The Works of Mercy” Window
This window, located on the northeast side of the Chancel, was installed by the Franz Mayer Company of Munich, Germany in memory of Canon Edmund Baldwin (+1876). The chancel windows were installed over the period between 1882-1893. The works of mercy depicted include: tend the sick, shelter the homeless, feed the hungry, visit the imprisoned, clothe the naked, give drink to the thirsty. These acts are based on the imperatives given by Christ in Matthew 25: 31-46.
“The window representing the Works of Mercy was a direct reminder to the financially secure members of the Church that they were to be responsible for the welfare of those less fortunate than they, and so they were exhorted to fulfill their duty to tend the sick, visit the imprisoned… These are all easily-read narrative scenes in order to serve as models and reminders of what was expected of the good Christian.” – Shirley Ann Brown
The St. James Cathedral organ is a fine English Romantic/American Classic instrument in beautiful acoustics with a large, colourful antiphonal division on the rear wall of the Cathedral.Read More
The organ was built originally in 1888 by the Samuel R. Warren Company of Montréal, Québec, and then expanded and maintained through the first three quarters of the 20th century by Casavant Frères of St. Hyacinthe, Québec. The solid-state console was built by J.W. Walker of England in 1979. Additions were done in 1976 by L.I. Phelps and Associates and in 1999 by Andrew Mead. The console platform and hydraulic locking system were built by Henk Berentschot in 2001.
The organ has 87 ranks, 67 speaking stops over four manuals and six divisions, and 5101 pipes.