Thursday Doors: The AfterLife

This is the second post related to my recent visit to the Necropolis in downtown Toronto.

The first thing that caught my attention about this cemetery was its name *Necropolis* which means “City Of The Dead”.   It was founded in 1850 and is one of the oldest cemeteries in the city … tucked away in a discreet corner close to downtown, virtually hidden from view.

Until a few months ago, I didn’t even know it existed.

Necropolis - door5

The entrance to the cemetery is through a white gated archway connecting a stone Gothic Revival chapel to the cemetery office.

Necropolis - door7
The decorative pattern in the roof tiles is such an interesting detail.
Doesn’t it feel like you’re about to enter wonderland?
Necropolis - door
Peering inside the front door of the tiny chapel

It seems that one’s final resting place isn’t always *final* when a developer decides that the location is prime real estate.  That’s what happened in the mid-1800s to over 6,600 people interred at the city’s first non-denominational cemetery known as Potter’s Field.

Also known as The Strangers’ Burying Place, Potter’s Field was located in what is now the prestigious Yorkville area of downtown Toronto.  Over a 30 year period starting in 1851, all the graves were relocated to either the Necropolis or Mount Pleasant Cemetery to facilitate development of the growing city.

The back of the Chapel
Necropolis - door2
A beautiful stained glass window on the inside, hidden by all the ivy on the outside.

Unlike Mount Pleasant Cemetery with its elaborate family mausoleums, the Necropolis is a more modest place.  It has all the quiet dignity suitable for a cemetery but without the overt ostentatiousness.

So we were rather surprised when we encountered a monument that didn’t seem to fit into this humble neighbourhood.

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A search down a steep hill and around the back uncovered the entrance to a crypt.

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I haven’t been able to find out who H.A. Knowles was, but this crypt has left me very curious.  Hidden in a shady, back corner of the cemetery, perched on the edge of a steep hill with an entrance that is both difficult to reach and uninviting when found … this was someone who clearly wanted privacy.

I almost felt like I should apologize for trespassing.

Thursday Doors is a weekly photo feature hosted by Norm 2.0.


  1. How did I miss this? I remember the gateway and in fact have photos of it, but the chapel was closed so thank you for the inside visit. Did you ever find out who HA Knowles was?


  2. the opening photos felt so grand with the upviews (love the roof and archway) and then to read “tiny chapel” brought it into perspective from the larger ones – and the door opened to the pews snd stained glass was nice….


  3. Wonderful photos! I love cemeteries. When I was in high school, my best friend and I after school used to go buy french bread, cheese, and other such things and then picnic in the local cemetery (Half Moon Bay, CA). We always had the place entirely to ourselves, and it was wonderful.

    There are definite benefits to being the oddballs.


    Kim G
    CDMX, México
    Where the dead people have their own special day.


  4. I absolutely loved every bit of this fantastic and fascinating place, Joanne! The doors and the area are so interesting and would take me hours to walk around and explore! 🙂


    • That’s a great point. Cemeteries really are for the living. Sad that they don’t see more people enjoying the beautiful ambiance.
      Having said that though, I picked up a beer can during our walk and carried it out to the garbage. Unfortunately some of the living are idiots.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you. I was surprised to see this building covered in green. I had looked at a photo online before I went and it was taken when there were no leaves! Under all that ivy, it’s a beautiful little chapel.


  5. I adore the ivy covered face of the chapel and that little peek into it. The stained glass windows are gorgeous!

    I like that ornamentation on the steeple/bell tower roof. Is that a decoration of a scale there in front? Looks like it to me. I like that it’s balanced.

    The double hearts on H.A. Knowles crypt door tell me someone loved him. I like the compass, and right angle ruler carved emblems on either side of the door. Do you think he was an engineer, mathematician or something else all together?


    • I don’t really know what that thing is. I thought it was just some decoration. I noticed that these little embellishments seemed to be a favourite during the Victorian Era.

      I wondered about the double hearts on the crypt as well as the symbols over the door. At first I thought they were the symbol of the Masonic Lodge but it didn’t match when I looked it up.
      It does have the appearance of a protractor though so engineer is a pretty good guess.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m all for traveling but at the end of this life I think i should like to stay put and not be road tripping from one cemetery to the next! That’s a fascinating bit of history Joanne. As to Mr Knowles I’m thinking he was an introvert? Oh if the stones could only talk.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Very nice Joanne. I love the entry doors to the chapel. I also like the tiles in the slate roof and on the steeple. I don’ think you’re trespassing. I think old H. A, might have appreciated the visit.


  8. Wow, Potter’s Field sounds like a ghost story in the making!! I don’t know about the Knowles guy wanting his privacy or else why would he have put such an ostentatious gravestone up in the first place. Kind of like the Donald Trump of cemeteries!


  9. So interesting to find these little out of the way places in the center of the city! Love the photo of the chapel with all of the ivy growing on it, it looks so inviting!


  10. I love the chapel, the details, the ivy and stained-glass window….although I wonder why they let the ivy hide the window from the outside. Beautiful setting, Joanne, thanks for finding this cemetery and sharing. I, too, wonder about H.A. Knowles, if he was a recluse looking for privacy in death or if he simply thought it was a pretty setting in which to rest.


  11. Lovely pictures! You have captured to peaceful nature of the place. I have never been inspired to visit cemeteries unfortunately but I just might now looking at your pictures. Love the colours on the door looking into the chapel and the one with the creeper growing around the outside. BTW, ROMwalks used to have a Necropolis walk. I think they are done for this year. There is one coming up for Mt. Pleasant in Sept.



    • Thanks Rashmi – someone had told me about the ROM Walks some time ago (you maybe?) and that’s how I first learned about the Necropolis.

      I had hoped to take their Walk in the spring, but I couldn’t get the timing to work for me, so I was forced to go on my own.
      I may decide to take this ROM Walk next year. Who knows what I might learn? 🙂


    • I was actually surprised when I arrived and saw it.
      I had looked up photos on the internet and had seen it only in winter pictures with no leaves. I wasn’t expecting that it would ‘disappear’ behind a cloud of ivy in the summer!


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