Thursday Doors: Searching For History

The afternoon of All Hallows’ Eve found me wandering solo through the streets of downtown Toronto with my camera in hand, looking for inspiration.

No, I wasn’t looking for people in outlandish costumes, although I did see many of those. Living in a large city however, that’s not necessarily unusual at any time of year.

I was on a quest to find more of Toronto’s heritage buildings and it was a very successful venture.  Today, I feature one of those treasures.

A side entrance

The Metropolitan United Church was built in 1872, and you wouldn’t know it from my photo, but apparently it was built with white brick.  I would have said it was probably yellow not white, but what do I know, except that the daily grime of a city starts to build up on everything.

The front doors

I’m assuming the wire mesh over the 3 upper windows of the main entrance was intended to prevent pigeons from roosting there, but the mesh does not detract from the gorgeous view from the inside.


Luckily I was in this area while the church was open because once inside, I was delighted to find a trio of beautiful doors in the entrance.

From the inside looking towards the main entrance

The body of the church had a stunning display of stained glass windows lining both sides of the building.  No, you won’t find any photos of those windows here.  My photography skills aren’t even remotely good enough to do them justice.

As spectacular as the windows were, it was the backdrop to the altar (do they call it an altar in the Methodist church?)  that captured my attention as soon as I stepped inside.

In spite of how it looks, I did not lay on the floor to take this photo.  It is common to have the chancel raised from the congregation, but this one was much higher than I’ve ever seen before.


Hope you’re impressed by my use of the word “chancel”.  It’s a new one for me and I was eager to take it out for a bit of exercise.

Apparently the Metropolitan United Church boasts the largest pipe organ in Canada, but unfortunately I did not get to see it.  Nor was I able to visit the carillon which would have been very impressive. A typical carillon holds 23 bells, but the Metropolitan has 54 bells.

I did however find the narrow door leading to the carillon tower.

A tiny door to where musical magic is created

You might be wondering why a fallen Catholic like me, a self-proclaimed agnostic, is interested in poking around old churches.

They provide fascinating touch points in a city’s historical time line.

Canada, as a country, was a mere 5 years old when this church was built.  Toronto wasn’t much more than a large, muddy town.  When viewed through the eyes of the time period, the construction of buildings like this one would have been magnificent to the citizens of the day for the authority and grandeur they represented.  In fact, they still do today.

It makes the current sprouting of plain glass and concrete condo buildings everywhere pale in comparison.


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



  1. Super impressed by your use of the word ‘chancel’. Bravo! 54 bells instead of 23? How uncharacteristically excessive of the Methodists. Would John Wesley have approved?

    (PS Sorry about the bombardment of comments today. I’m on a mission to catch up. Today is your day. 🙂 )


  2. I have always found church architecture to be fascinating. Why is it that these buildings are so ornate…at least in certain religions? The craftsmanship is generally superb but I do have to question the over-the-top construction for a place of worship.

    I am glad to have such beautiful buildings to look at and attended a lovely church with beautiful stained glass windows as a child but my idea of worship more connects with nature…think Native American sans medicine man. 😉


  3. Toronto’s Metropolitan United Church is gorgeous and quite a supply of beautiful doors, Joanne.
    I liked the small door leading to the organ’s carillons, such a sweet curved door arch and the final angel made my Mom who was born on All Saints Day, add, “angels are precious.” 🙂


  4. I love stained glass windows. The turquoise ones you took a photo of are gorgeous. There is something so captivating about old churches, they are usually so full of character and atmosphere and old solid wood. Lovely photos overall.


    • Interestingly, there was no cemetery. There were 2 very large cemeteries created “outside” of the old town of York prior to the construction of this church. I believe that’s where burials would have been held.
      Of course, those cemeteries are now smack in the centre of the greater city.


    • I LOVED that cross within a crown. I was glad I got a reasonably usable photo.
      I’m guessing you could spend an afternoon just browsing through the detail on all the stained glass windows in there. Wowza, indeed!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Very nice – glad you made a point to tell us about chancel, I thought it was a typo. As a recovering Catholic, I sometimes find it overwhelming to be in such an impressive church. They really did have some creative architecture back in the day. Your Thursday posts make me want to visit Toronto, it looks like a beautiful city.


    • I’ve lived here since I graduated from university another lifetime ago, but it’s been only in the last couple of years when I started to be a tourist in my own city that I’ve begun to appreciate how interesting it really is.

      I’m glad that some of my enthusiasm is contagious and helps others see what a beautiful city it is.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I do like a poke around a church and you found some spectacular doors here. And stained glass. I have found that sometimes just photographing a small portion of a stained glass window works, rather than going for the whole thing. Those front doors are superb and I love the angels at either side too.


    • Were you familiar with this area around Church and Queen? I had driven past this church a million times and never given it much thought. Glad I finally decided to stop and take a look 🙂


        • A couple of years ago after a vacation in Europe, I realized that we spent a lot of time and money exploring foreign cities, but we weren’t investing the same effort in our own city … yet visitors from all over the world come to Toronto to be tourists.

          It was a seismic shift for me. Now I treat everywhere I am like I’m a visiting tourist. It’s way more fun 🙂

          Liked by 2 people

  7. I like them all. These old churches seem to me, a practicing Lutheran, to be filled with the glory of God made with the gifts He gave people. They are awesome in the old, true sense of the word. But whether or no you believe, you can appreciate beauty. Thanks for sharing these examples.



    • I completely agree with you about the awesome part! I clearly feel a sense of awe whenever I walk into a church – big or small. They feel like special places – probably because we have given them that status in our hearts 🙂


  8. Gorgeous, beautiful church, doors, altar and chancel, Joanne. Thanks for sharing. I wonder how the church looked when they first built it, when the white brick was some shade of white. Probably stunning.

    I like the tiny, slim door that leads to the carillon. Did someone tall and skinny install that one?


    • Can you just imagine how amazing a sparkling white church would look on a bright sunny day?!

      Behind that skinny little door, I’m also imagining a skinny little spiral staircase leading up the tower. Just the kind of thing I would love to explore!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Joanne your point about a building such as this being built in such a little place at the time really hit home. Do you think the people of Toronto then could have had any idea of what a metropolis it would become?
    I think your photography skills are very good. Like you though stained glass seems to challenge me. How is the recovery coming by the way?


    • I’m sure they couldn’t!! Even I’m surprised by the growth of the city in just the past 20 years.

      As I was mentioning to Jude, the biggest challenge I’m having right now with taking photos is correcting for a subject that’s backlit – like a window. I’m never particularly happy with the results. I really need to do some reading and work at it. It’s on my list of things to do 😉


    • I think you hit it right on the head – they have unique character. It’s what makes them interesting to look at, interesting to photograph.

      Speaking of interesting to photograph … how many photos have you accumulated of the grandbaby already? 🙂


  10. A Catholic upbringing is another of the many things we have in common Joanne (both over 5’3, both Northern Hemisphere dwellers, the list is fascinating) but I’m shocked you let a locked door stop you in your tracks. It was only a Methodist church after all…


    • Bwahahahaha!!! Unfortunately lock picking isn’t one of the skills I’ve managed to learn over the years 😉

      It sounds like you too have that guiding motto that ‘it’s easier to ask for forgiveness, than permission’. I’ve exercised that one liberally 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I’m agnostic too. Or at least I think I am. But I love the beauty of some churches, including these fine photos of yours. My wife and I have enjoyed exploring some of the old Catholic missions in California.


    • Churches are wonderful places and the chancel is the part of the church that holds the most fascination for me.
      …. must be that 60s Catholic upbringing in a male-dominated institution where females at the time weren’t allowed in the chancel.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I loved them all and really enjoyed this post. Exploring that part of the city on foot last year was a real eye opener for me. You have many more wonderful old buildings there than I thought, and naturally the churches are among the top.
    Good point about putting things into perspective of the times. This would have been a massive/major project back in the day.
    Great post Joanne 🙂


    • Thanks Norm. Walking, running, cycling around a city is a very different experience from driving … which is what I’m usually doing. I’m noticing so much more by getting out on the street. This project of visiting Toronto’s heritage buildings is turning out to be very interesting and makes me want to dive deeper into our history.

      I’m starting to appreciate that in a 50 year span, there was a massive amount of major construction that completely changed the landscape of this city.
      In perspective, it’s been 50 years since Expo ’67. How has the past 50 years affected Montreal?

      Liked by 1 person

  13. This is a lovely church. You are so right about not building them like this, and that;s sad in so many ways. A church like this has to be a very special place to experience a religious service. I can imagine the wonderful sound of the pipe organ and, having grown up in a Methodist Church, the hymns are already playing in my head “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound…” Sorry.

    I also like the tiny door, and I empathize with you on the stained glass windows. It’s so hard to take those pictures.


  14. Hi Joanne,
    I forget we also have some really impressive churches in this town! Thank you for the reminder and inspiring me to wander around TO with my camera again!

    Your camera skills are just perfect. Lovely photos, all of them.



  15. Great subject 🙂 I’da thought yellow brick, too. So pretty. The church makes grime look prettier? How is that possible?
    The front entrance doors are grand, but that side entrance is even more grand, me thinks. I like the narrow door to the carillon too. Not that I don’t like the interior doors, cause I do. I like them all.
    Stunning altar, amazing woodwork. I had to look up chancel, and I’m always glad to learn new words.


    • That whole altar thing was so impressive. I would have liked to get much closer, but I try to be respectful of religious buildings. As it is, I always feel a bit conspicuous taking photos inside a church and if there are people around praying, I will refrain. It just feels wrong to disturb their quiet contemplation by playing tourist.
      Luckily on this day, the only person in the church left as I arrived 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Churches, in their variety of acrhitectures, are always interesting to me and I find it difficult to pass one up when travelling. This one is terrific inside and out, nice photos.


    • Churches tend to be amazing works of art and should be appreciated as such. The one challenge I have with them is that if too many are visited in a short period of time (like travelling in Italy!!), one starts to get a bit blasé about another one. I try to limit myself because of it 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s