Church of the Redeemer

There is a tiny church on Bloor St in downtown Toronto, dwarfed by the high-rises around it.  My attention is always drawn to it whenever I’m in the area, and yet I don’t know why exactly it’s held such appeal to me over the years. Perhaps because it’s an anachronism at this bustling city intersection.

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When I first moved to Toronto out of university, I had a large client in this area and passed by this church every day in the cold of winter.  It seemed fitting that it was on a cold winter day that I finally answered the call of this heritage building and stopped in to visit.

Up until now, I didn’t even know its name – The Church of the Redeemer.

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The original church didn’t have the 3 doors we see today.  In this old photo from 1885, evidence of the church’s rural beginnings are apparent, as well as its single front door.  I don’t know when the entrance was eventually changed.

Church of the redeemer - 1885

From tayloronhistory.com

I was surprised by how small the church was on the inside.  Only after my visit did I learn that the back portion of the building had been sold many years ago.

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What touched my heart in this simple and unpretentious church were the plaques that lined the walls, of soldiers from the congregation who had fallen during the 2 World Wars.

WWI casualties lined one side of the church, with WWII casualties on the other.

These two wars have now been consigned to the history books, and yet these plaques seemed to be shouting out to me.  I’ve seen plaques like these in other old churches, but  that day I was deeply moved by them.

Two plaques, hung side-by-side, and I assume they were brothers.  I appreciate that this has been a scenario planned out over and over through war after war, but it is a loss no parent should have to endure.

We pay them homage to remember their loss.

There were only 2 of us in the church that day.  A woman sat unmoving in the back row staring straight ahead of her, seemingly oblivious to me.  She contributed to the heavy, sad mood that seemed to permeate the building.

Long shadows were cast on the floor from the sunlight streaming through the door windows.  To the side in the small aisle, a shovel and bucket of road salt stood ready for the next snowfall.

While I stood quietly in this oasis of solitary contemplation, the busy city traffic continued to whiz by.

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It’s interesting how a building can impart a mood.  On this particular day, I had been feeling light and happy – having just been dismissed unexpectedly from jury duty – but the Church of the Redeemer was a melancholy place.

I did not linger long.

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

 

 

 

About Joanne Sisco

Retired but not idle. Life is an adventure - I plan to continue to embrace it.
This entry was posted in Around Toronto, history, Photo Challenges, Things I Like, Thursday Doors and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

99 Responses to Church of the Redeemer

  1. Cecilia says:

    Wonderful informative post and awesome pictures. Thank you and greetings.

    Like

  2. Andy says:

    With the high demand to build more condos in T.O. I am surprised that the church has survived the demand for prime real estate/.

    Like

    • Joanne Sisco says:

      It seems to me that there are many small churches around the city nestled in-between large buildings. I suspect that church parishes are quite good at lobbying to save their building. Cashing in on the wealth of the property doesn’t help the parish if they no longer have a place to gather.
      … but that’s just my theory.

      Like

  3. What an interesting history behind the architecture!

    Peta

    Like

  4. jesh stg says:

    Thank you Joanna, for faithfully coming by my blog – the last 3 weeks are now a blur – too many things happened (mixed: good and bad), but now I’m feeling better physically I can allow myself to catch up with “normal” life.
    This church is such a contrast, when looking to the outside and coming inside. In a way, one has to embrace two different worlds at the same time. I wonder, when entering this church in the old setting, it had a different atmosphere. Wished the city planners had not allowed these high rise building to surround this church. It’s significance is being drowned out by the stature of the height, glass, steel, and noise of traffic. That’s my melancholy (a bit dramatized).

    Like

    • Joanne Sisco says:

      Oh dear – I hope you are bouncing back and life becomes more even keel again. It’s interesting how so many bloggers I follow have reported turbulence in their life over the past month – myself included. In some ways I feel like ‘it’s only early February?!’

      Like

  5. I love finding tranquil little spots like this in any city. They are so often places to discover wonderful and poignant stories. Your inclusion of the historic photo is so fascinating.

    Like

  6. Margie in Toronto says:

    I’ve walked by this church for years but have never ventured inside. I had considered it as a possibility when I was thinking of returning to Church in the Fall as it has a reputation of being very progressive.
    I finally decided to return to St. Andrew’s Presbyterian on King St. near Roy Thomson Hall. If you have the chance it is well worth a visit. Besides being the Church of the 48th Highlanders (their museum is in the basement and open on Wednesdays), they are also famous for their music – both the choir and the many concerts. Mini concerts go on most Fridays at noon and I encourage you to visit the next time you are downtown. It is a very large church and I think you would find that the mood is a bit lighter.
    St. James Cathedral at the corner of King & Church is also very interesting especially as it relates to Toronto’s history.

    Like

    • Joanne Sisco says:

      Thanks Margie. I have visited both St Andrew’s and St James – they are lovely churches.
      I didn’t know however about the museum in the basement of St Andrew’s, or the Friday noon ‘concerts’. Both of those are worth another visit!

      Like

  7. Amy says:

    The church is beautiful. Too bad the mood that it held was such a somber one. It seems like a tiny treasure in a bustling area. 🙂

    Like

  8. nrhatch says:

    Interesting how the city pressed in on all four sides of this church over time . . . thanks for sharing the church’s picture in its original setting.

    When the mood of a building is subduing my joie de vivre . . . I head for the door too!

    Like

  9. There are a few of these churches in New York, and I’m always in awe of the fact that they didn’t tear them down. Such a cool find among the skyscrapers.

    Like

    • Joanne Sisco says:

      I think churches have had much better luck at being saved. I suspect the parishioners are better organized to lobby against the demolition.
      I too find them so interesting in that juxtaposition with the new.

      Like

  10. It makes my soul so happy to see this little church towered by all this modern architecture. So much of the old is gone now in North America. I don’t want to lose the past, its history, or pieces of it. Good or bad we need to see it to appreciate it and learn from it. This building makes me happy.

    Like

  11. Sue Slaght says:

    Joanne I always smile seeing that little church when we are in Toronto. I have never gone inside and I’m not so sure I will given your description of the mood that ensued. the plaques of the lost brothers must surely contribute to that .What a tragedy.

    Like

  12. joey says:

    It’s like that sometimes isn’t it? I’m glad you didn’t linger and get dragged out of your light mood. It’s a beautiful place, but it does have a mood in your photos.
    I found the introduction to this post quite nice and entirely relatable. Over the summer, I took photos of our ‘the lil church on the circle’ — I have been strolled, ice skated, cycled, walked, run, and driven by that thing all my life, and I really never LOOKED at it. When I finally did, I learned it had a name, had beautiful doors, and here I am, months later, talking about it still as ‘the lil church on the circle’.
    So much depth in this post today. A great addition to doors.

    Like

  13. There was no woman in the back of the church….

    Like

  14. de Wets Wild says:

    Incredible comparing the surroundings of the church in the “then” and now” photos, Joanne! This little building has seen one of the world’s biggest cities rise around it!

    Like

  15. Susanne says:

    Was it lack of light that made the mood melancholy? Lack of people? Presence of ghosts?
    You recreated the feeling but I think it was through the photos and the sense of isolation I felt on behalf of the church surrounded by all the modern buildings. It made me feel lonely and small and really what churches were built to do was to make people feel hopeful and expansive, don’t you think?

    Like

    • Joanne Sisco says:

      Oh – that’s brilliant. I simply feel the emotion without necessarily understanding the why. I like your explanation a lot … feeling lonely and small describes it very well, especially with this solitary woman at the back of the church looking so unhappy

      Liked by 1 person

  16. I’ve always wanted to go inside this iconic church – so glad you did and shared the photos! So interesting that you found the mood so melancholy – maybe it misses the fields that once surrounded it.

    Like

    • Joanne Sisco says:

      It seems that this little church is rather iconic, sitting on its corner flanked by all those tall buildings. It’s interesting that everyone familiar with Toronto, knows this corner!!

      Like

  17. Bob Georgiou says:

    Remarkable how the city grew around it, eh? Great images and words.

    Like

    • Joanne Sisco says:

      I also found a photo from the mid 1960s and surprisingly, it was still the tallest building around. What’s even more remarkable is how much the city has changed just in the last 40-50 years!

      Like

  18. Ally Bean says:

    The doors on the church are lovely, but seeing the old photo of how it used to look is amazing. So weird to think of this little church as being out in the country, considering where it is today.

    Like

  19. Oh, you transferred the mood really well. It’s a lovely building. I hope it survives for a long time. (If you find this comment in your spam, you can delete it. Now my comments seem to work fine.)

    Like

  20. JT Twissel says:

    It does look like a wonderful place to escape the craziness of the city.

    Like

  21. Corina says:

    I enjoyed this post for not only the photos but also for the information and “narrated tour.”

    Like

  22. Tippy Gnu says:

    War is probably the saddest thing on earth, so I understand your reaction.I feel amazed that this church has stood so long, and has not yet been bulldozed to make room for another skyscraper. I hope it stays right where it’s at.

    Like

    • Joanne Sisco says:

      There are actually a number of small churches like this one in Toronto that are snuggled tightly among high-rises. Somehow they’ve managed to survive – kudos to the committees and petitioners who made it happen.

      Liked by 1 person

  23. Lovely, unique church dwarfed by the generic highrises – nice contrast. Also, the contrast of then and now is pretty amazing. Good for you to be dismissed from jury duty! You did your duty without the pain.

    Like

  24. karen207 says:

    I was a student at Victoria University, University of Toronto so I walked by that church every day for four years. I’ve always loved the look of it but, like Donna, had never been inside. Thanks for the tour, Joanne.

    Like

    • Joanne Sisco says:

      This is one of the joys I’m having at being retired. All those little things that I never had time for when I was working, I can now do …. like a spur-of-the-moment decision to satisfy my curiosity and see if the doors of the church are open.

      Like

  25. I love that the little church stands in such stark contrast to the surrounding buildings. Your photos are lovely and that old one is super. Your description inside recreated the atmosphere so well, I felt like I was there beside you.

    Like

  26. Relax... says:

    The little church so reminds me of Carl(and Ellie)’s house still standing stubbornly in the midst of city skyscrapers in the movie, “Up.” 🙂 Lovely photos, all.

    Like

  27. Norm 2.0 says:

    Amazing how much the city grew around it in the last 130 years or so.
    I get that same sad feeling you describe and I wonder if it isn’t more to do with the season and the light?
    Maybe if you go back in the spring…

    Like

  28. This reminds me of the story “The Little House”: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Little_House. I like seeing it there, bringing a bit of humanity to all the high-rises. The plaques are like those in Europe remembering the dead of the two World Wars. Definitely sobering.

    janet

    Like

    • Joanne Sisco says:

      Sobering is a really good word for it. I think that as time marches on, we lose the significance of how difficult and traumatic those years were. For whatever reason, it slapped me hard when I started to look at those plaques.

      Like

  29. Retirement Reflections says:

    I have driven passed Church of the Redeemer countless times….but never stopped. Thank you for taking us inside. It is a very striking building both inside and out.

    Like

    • Joanne Sisco says:

      It’s one of those interesting little landmarks that helped me get around the sea of high rises when I first moved to Toronto. I’m glad it was recognizable to you too. I’m glad I finally took the time to stop and look at it.

      Like

  30. dennyho says:

    Your photos and the history you share here are well done Joanne.

    Like

  31. Heyjude says:

    I am glad it has survived and still a church. The old photo is extraordinary. How different Toronto was then. You have captured the sense of melancholy here Jo. The plaques are heart-breaking. How many families went through, and indeed are still going through, having to live with loss of this kind.

    Like

    • Joanne Sisco says:

      I really like seeing comparisons of buildings before and now. Sitting in the middle of farmland, it would have been quite an impressive building.

      These plaques do break my heart and I think that’s why I’m always deeply disturbed at any ‘glorification’ of serving. I know there are people out there who would pillory me for a comment like this, but quite frankly I think it’s morally wrong to glorify war and any of its components. Let’s recognize it for what it really is … it’s horrible, it’s sad, it destroys lives, and breaks families. And I think that’s what these plaques are saying to me.

      {deep breath} ok – rant over 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  32. The wall plaques are a reminder of war and the heartbreak it brings to so many. You captured it well. Interesting, that part of the church had been sold. I wonder what’s in there today.

    Like

    • Joanne Sisco says:

      I have no idea what’s back there now. I didn’t know until I got home and started researching this little church that I realized the back end wasn’t part of the church anymore. Now that I know that, I may have to check it out the next time I’m in the neighbourhood.

      Liked by 1 person

  33. Those two plaques just stab the heart, don’t they? As a parent, it makes me want to weep, Joanne. I’m all teary as I write this comment. The melancholy of the church comes through your words. I did enjoy the two images – the place surrounded by high-rises and the rural version. What a contrast. Lovely post, my friend.

    Like

    • Joanne Sisco says:

      Thanks Diana … that I wasn’t the only one feeling rather teary. There is a picture of my grandmother standing with my father after he enlisted, before he left for Europe. It wasn’t until my own sons reached their 20s that I came to realize that the look on her face was a combination of profound sadness and deep fear.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Joanne Sisco says:

      Thanks Diana – that I wasn’t the only one who got all teary eyed.

      There is a picture of my grandmother standing with my father after he enlisted, just before he left for Europe. It wasn’t until my own sons reached their 20s that I came to realize that the expression on her face was a combination of profound sadness and deep fear.

      Like

  34. Many stone churches full of hard surfaces give off a gloomy sad feel when they aren’t fully occupied. It’s amazing this one has survived.

    Like

  35. Peter Klopp says:

    A very touching account of your deeply impressions in the Church of the Redeemer!

    Like

  36. Kelly MacKay says:

    Great post, I recall seeing this church. What a change in landscape from when it Was built

    Like

  37. Dan Antion says:

    I like the churches that manage to survive in the midst of high-rise office towers. I really like the picture of the sun streaming through at angles from the door. It does add to the mood you describe, but I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s the snow shovel on duty.

    Like

  38. A permeating sad atmosphere… I can hear it echoing, Joanne. Love the doors though! Oh, and that bell tower. Great shot. Hugs.

    Like

  39. loisajay says:

    Your writing was as wonderful as the photos, Joanne. Sometimes I need a somber moment.

    Like

  40. This post reminded me of seeing the church (I think it’s a church) tucked in by the Eaton Centre (or whatever it’s called these days). Do you know the story of that one? I remember walking out one of the entrances and being very surprised to see this old building and courtyard right next to this complex.

    Like

  41. Nice doors but besides it currently being dwarfed by the encroaching large building was the old photo where it sat originally in a rural countryside. What a difference some years make. 🙂

    Like

    • Joanne Sisco says:

      I love seeing old photos like this and comparing them to now. It’s fascinating that areas I consider ‘downtown’ today, were once farmland. I shouldn’t be surprised … quiet country roads where I used to ride my bike just a dozen years ago are now busy subdivisions. It is nice though when a bit of the history can be retained and churches often fall in that category.

      Liked by 1 person

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