Temple of Peace

It’s been a while since I’ve been here at Thursday Doors and I have a backlog of doors to share.  This week I will start with a recent discovery from the book Top 150 Unusual Things To See In Ontario.

I make no secret of the fact that I like finding unusual things and everything about the Sharon Temple fell into that category.

The Sharon Temple is located in a small village north of Toronto …. called Sharon.  The history of both the town and the temple go back to the early 1800s when a former Quaker from New York started his own sect called the Children of Peace.

The history of the Children of Peace is quite interesting.  They were highly involved in the politics of the day and they are credited with, among other things, the development of a strong farming co-op in the area and the first credit union in Ontario.

After the founder, David Willson, passed away in 1866, the sect eventually just dissolved.

However, this story isn’t about the sect, but the temple itself.  This unusual temple, inspired by Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem, was completed in 1831 and is stacked with symbolism.

Sharon Temple 7

The temple has 3 tiers, to represent the Holy Trinity, and each one is square to symbolize equality – a major tenet of the sect.

In the centre of each side, there is an identical door to symbolize that people can come from any direction and be on “equal footing”.

Sharon Temple 2

On each corner of each tier is a lantern and each lantern is capped with 4 spires.  The twelve lanterns, when lit, were to symbolize the twelve Apostles going into the world to preach salvation.

At the very top suspended between the 4 lanterns is a golden globe inscribed with the words “peace to the world”.  I couldn’t actually see any writing on the globe so I’ll have to take their word for it.

Sharon Temple - golden globe

The inside of the temple is equally curious.

It starts with Jacob’s Ladder which symbolizes the connection between Heaven and Earth – although in this case, it’s also the connection to the 2nd tier.

Sharon Temple 3

I was not happy to encounter the little rope that indicated the ladder was not to be climbed.  Those stairs were just begging to be climbed, but considering I tripped on one of the raised platforms on the first floor and did a face-plant, I took it as an omen that I shouldn’t be breaking any rules.

Sharon Temple 5

In the centre of the room is an ‘ark’ containing a bible said to be open to the 10 Commandments.  I couldn’t tell.

Sharon Temple - arc

What I could tell however, is that the ark had shutter doors on 2 sides in a style that resembled the exterior doors.

Sharon Temple - arc doors

The interior of the temple is simply a large meeting hall with 4 raised platforms in each corner.  The room is dominated by columns – 4 pillars surrounding the ark and an additional 12 pillars surrounding them.  Each of these columns was labelled.

The 4 pillars around the ark were called Faith, Hope, Love, and Charity – the ‘pillars’ of the church, and the remaining twelve were named for each of the disciples.

Sharon Temple 6

If ever there had been an altar, there isn’t one now, and I don’t know what the upper tiers may have been used for, but I’m guessing with a staircase like that, it wasn’t intended for the general public.

Religious sects today are generally viewed with suspicion, but this is one that did a great deal of good for its community promoting peace, cooperation, fairness, and helping those less fortunate.

Seems to me those are all values that deserve a resurgence today.

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

111 comments

  1. wow, I’m glad I stumbled upon this. It’s amazing how they were inspired by Solomon’s temple. All the sermons I’ve listened to and not once heard anything about this place. You took alot of great pictures. Would it okay to save some of them? Thank you for posting this.

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  2. Beautiful photos. One of my children briefly attended a daycare named Jacob’s Ladder. It featured a ladder that went up to a playhouse above (kind of like a treehouse, but indoors). Now that I think of it, I think they also had an “ark” in the middle of the room where the children would sit for stories. Being non-religious, this meant nothing to me, but now I wonder if maybe it was a Quaker-run facility. I do remember that the staff were very kind and calm, and that the place had an excellent reputation.

    Jude

    Liked by 1 person

    • I had no idea what Jacob’s Ladder was until I looked it up for this post. Like you I’m in the non-religious category. I guess that’s why I was so impressed with the work of the Children of Peace when I started to read about them.

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  3. Hi Joanne! I’m a bit late catching up with this post but find this building fascinating too. And how wonderful that this building has been preserved for people today and serves as a reminder of the group that built it and did good things for the community. I tend to believe in the basic goodness of people and this group sounds like it is a great example of what happens when people come together to help others and leave a legacy for the rest of us. I’ll bet that is happening more in the world than we are always aware so thank you for that reminder! ~Kathy

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    • I too have a belief that people are basically good. Sometimes that belief takes a beating – like the last few years with the growth of the populist movement – but reminders that there is still a lot of good in the world helps recenter me 🙂

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  4. This is an interesting building. Your photos do it justice. I like the idea that all architectural features on a place of worship have some inherent meaning associated with the sect. Not just another pretty building. Cool find.

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  5. A marvelous post, Joanne. I enjoyed your narrative very much — and great shots to go with each part. I’m fascinated by buildings that are rich in symbolism — regardless of what kind of symbol. Have a satisfying Saturday. Hugs.

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    • Thanks Teagan – happy weekend to you too 🙂

      I was glad to find the article which outlined all the symbolism in this building. It made the temple that much more interesting to me.

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  6. Very cool post!

    It got me curious and I had to research out a bit more about it. I especially like the function of the credit union and the Farmer’s Storehouse co-op. Anyone could borrow and payments were based on what the individual could afford, even fluctuated as needed. The interest for borrowing created an endowment to allow future loans to members.

    I think the Jacob’s Ladder is just symbolic of the bridge between heaven and earth. Wiki has several interpretations of it’s meaning but that is the simplest one.unlike traditional Quakers that prayed in silence, Wilson sang his sermons which were recorded into a book called, “Books of Sacred Record” which were stored in the ark. I’m assuming these were eventually destroyed when the ark was vandalized but I have no idea,

    I found a video link on the restoration that shows the illumination, it’s a 12 minute video and the illumination is toward the latter half…thought you’d enjoy seeing it. 😉

    Children of Peace shared most Quaker belief, especially in the innate presence of God (the “inner light”) in every person…I like this!

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  7. Sorry to hear about the face plant. Hopefully no lasting injury. I’m with you that the ladder would have been very tempting. I can see Dave gving me the look already. ‘Don’t even think about it.’ I very much like the values this sect valued. The symbolism of welcoming those from any direction so apt for our world today.

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  8. What an interesting building. I can see the frustration of the rope blocking your climb….I certainly want to know what is on the next two floors. Thanks for sharing this story Joanne.

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  9. What a cool building, Joanne, and I’m fascinated by the way the symbolism was worked into the elements of its design. The work of the sect and the pillars of Faith, Hope, Love, and Charity remind me a little of the Grange in the US (and elsewhere?). Sorry about the face-plant, although it would have been cool to see what’s upstairs. 🙂

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    • I’m starting to suspect there is probably a lot of symbolism in the design of many buildings, but it’s been lost over time. For me, the temple became a whole lot more interesting when I stumbled across all the symbolism.

      … well, maybe I shouldn’t have used the word ‘stumbled’ in this particular context 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Joanne, your thought provoking post prompted me to go to their website for more information about this extraordinary building. I too wondered about the absence of an alter. Apparently, this building represented the foundation of the culture and was only used to collect alms for the poor. Religious services were held at other buildings (churches) within the community of Hope. There was no mention of a “usefulness” of the staircase. I love the symbolism, but like to believe that it also had a function. This was a fascinating read, and we could all learn a thing or two from their way of life. Stories like this are exactly why I look forward to your posts.

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    • Thank you Suzanne. This is exactly the kind of find that fires up my imagination. There are a lot of bad news stories in history, but it’s nice to know there are good ones too where people cooperated with each other and thrived because of it.

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  11. I love all the symbolism in this beautiful building. My favorite is the identical door in the center of each side to symbolize that people can come from any direction and be on “equal footing”. As it should be. Great pics

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  12. I love and appreciate the complex architecture, and am fascinated with the symbolism that went into that.
    It’s gorgeous, and I love the color scheme. This was a special find! The ark is quite lovely, and how clever of the architect to match the doors!

    Oof! Hope you weren’t hurt at all by the fall!

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    • The only thing hurt was my pride 😏 I worried for my camera which took a hard whack, but it seems to be ok 🤞I continued to take photos for the 2 hours we were there and there were no issues.

      I didn’t have much in the way of expectations, but was seriously impressed by this building and the grounds which included several other heritage buildings – some original, some relocated. The best part – we were the only ones there.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I like the tolerant spirit that speaks through the entire post on the Temple of Peace. You are so right, Joanne, what the world needs is a revival of the old and tested values. Consider your post as a small contribution towards this goal. Best wishes! Peter

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  14. Excellent post! Love the doors, the lanterns, the symmetry, the colours and the ladder. The last photo shows how beautifully curved the ladder is. What a shame you couldn’t go upstairs to see what the other floors contain. I am totally against organised religion, but concede that this group appeared to do good. OH, nearly forgot to say how much I like those doors – what a gorgeous colour too. I so enjoy it when you find quirky things for us to see. Thank you Jo xx

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    • I too love quirky stuff and this one fit that bill. I was reading yesterday that there is an ‘illumination’ event at the Sharon Temple in September. I can’t say for sure, but I think they will be lighting those lanterns. I’m going to have to investigate more because I would love to see that!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. I loved this post. I’m very big on symbolism and this place has loads. And, oh man, those stairs are just asking to be climbed. It’s unfortunate that like so many groups, this one could not be sustained without the leader (although, usually this is a good thing. There’s a certain cult of personality south of you that I’d dearly love to lose its head) as it sounds like they did some good work and their ideals sound positive.

    Is it bad that I laughed when you said you face-planted? I think I need my sense of humour looked at by a professional….

    Liked by 1 person

    • I share your sense of humour. I suspect it’s from watching all those slapstick comedies as a kid 😏 I’m actually not a clumsy person, but every once in a while I do it in a grand way 🙂

      I agree that a leader makes or breaks the group. It’s always ‘tone from the top’ and if a good leader instills kindness, cooperation, and generosity of spirit, great things for the common good can and will result. Sadly we also know the opposite is true.

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  16. If the challenge would be “Guess what it is” and not “Doors, I would have been off by miles and miles.
    I am glad you used the word “Temple” in the subject line it gave it away and this idiot here is thankful for it. 🙂

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  17. Hi Joanne,

    I love symbols, I love their ability to give us a visual reference for entire constellations of values, beliefs, and concepts. And what a great place you found as an example of the ultimate in symbolic communication. I so agree that we need those values now more than we ever have. Posts like yours remind us that others believe, and have always believed, in those values too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I tend to be a very literal person and symbolism is often completely lost on me unless I’m hit over the head with it.

      Having read about the symbolism however has made a huge difference in my appreciation for what is otherwise a rather simple building.

      I wanted to roll my eyes at the thought of an isolated, insular,religious sect carving out a community in the wilds of Ontario in the early 1800s. Instead I found a model of good, honest, decent people who not only believed, but behaved as though everyone could and should benefit.

      Call me a Pollyanna, but why does it have to be so hard today?

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  18. I misread you and thought you were wearing raised platforms! 😛 I was about to say, “I know, right?’ But then I realized you would not wear platform shoes to such a thing, because I wouldn’t…
    It’s funny how I don’t love religion, but religious architecture never ceases to amaze and enthrall me. If only all the zealots gave their best to people as they do to buildings… Imagine. Sounds like this particular group really did.
    Anyway, this is an incredible find, I just love it, layer on top of layer of meaning and all so artfully depicted. Great doors!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. As much as I love to visit and photograph glorious cathedrals, this humble building seems to exemplify the purported teachings of most religions. Somehow the base values of religious doctrine and the reality of their actions often are in conflict. Great find, Joanne!

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  20. Very interesting post about this sect, Joanne. I do have trouble seeing the connection with Solomon’s temple though:)
    Even though the architectural style is minimal and very modern for the 1800-s, I had expected the cherubim angels on the ark of the covenant.
    Remarkable are the extremely steep stairs! Just looking at them makes me wonder, do I really want to go up there?
    My last thought is that erroneously people connect earthly peace to faith in God, but it brings often the opposite in the earth realm(meaning the purpose of the “peace” brought is internal, not circumstantial or social). Okay, am done now, lol.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I too don’t quite understand the Solomon’s Temple. From what I’ve been able to glean, Solomon’s Temple was the first temple of Jerusalem, and this splinter sect believed they were creating the New Jerusalem and this was their “first temple” to inspire those from all around.
      Nor can I say whether the lack of architectural embellishments was a function of their finances or Quaker fundamentals.

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  21. Love the Temple itself, plus the beautiful and unique doors and those windows are amazing as well. I always find symbolism interesting, and this is a wonderful story explaining the meanings. Yes, we could do with a large dose of “peace, cooperation, fairness, and helping those less fortunate.” Thank you for sharing this trip, and hopefully you’ve recovered from the face plant. 🙂

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  22. This is such an intriguing building and story, Joanne. It does seem like the works of this church were generally good things for the community. Thanks so much for the tour and the explanation. Those stairs are impressive. I think you’re right, I don’t see them being used by lots of people. The symbolism represents quite a few things we could use more of today.

    Great photos – thanks for sharing them and your research.

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    • This was one of those unexpected treasures. We thought it would be a quick 10 minute visit, but with all the other heritage buildings on the property, we ended up staying for over 2 hours. Sometimes a little road trip to check out something new pans out to be very memorable 🙂

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  23. Wow what a fascinating building. I admit that the symbolism usually flies right over my head until someone explains it all to me, but whenever you see this many details in a building you know that the designers had more to say than just “come on in”.
    Great post 🙂

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    • I’m the same, Norm. I’m such a literal person, symbolism is usually lost on me. Thankfully I found a very clear article online that described the symbolism of the temple … but the staircase still baffles me. I can’t help but believe there has to be more to the story.

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  24. That is a fascinating story. The building and symbolism are really intriguing. What a great find, you seem to have a knack for this. I love the idea of promoting peace – we could really use that today.

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  25. I like the symbolism of the doors. The democratic ideals of the Quakers were one of their best contributions to society, in my view. I also like the elegant simplicity of the architecture.

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  26. Lovely piece about one of my favourite places. First visited on a school trip, in 1964. It was love at first sight. Sharon was a smaller town, then, so there was the temple, all alone on the landscape. Very moving. A few smaller historical buildings were also there. Have been back several times, since, and this beautiful building never disappoints.
    The temple used to host some wonderful concert series. Not sure if that is continuing. Will check!

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      • You must have lived near the area to have taken a school trip there. I’ve been in Toronto for 35 years and have never heard of it. It’s one of those hidden away treasures. Even though we were looking for it, we still managed to pass it twice.

        They do seem to have a calendar of events although I don’t remember seeing anything about concerts. I did however note that there is some kind of ‘illumination’ event in early September. I’m hoping that means they will light the 12 lanterns … and perhaps the lanterns on Willson’s study as well. That would be something to see!

        We were completely enchanted with the temple and the grounds with all the other heritage buildings. What we thought would be a 10 minute visit was actually 2 hours!

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  27. Wonderful and informative. I always learn so much from your posts. Thanks for all the “digging” and research you do

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  28. What an amazing find! I was totally engrossed in this story and the photos.

    Hmmm, a group of people that believes in peace, cooperation, equality and helping the unfortunate, and this never caught on?!?! What a shame. Although, aren’t these the purported values of most major religions? Uh, never mind – human actions speak louder than words, however “holy”. OK, mini rant over.

    Thank you so much for sharing, Joanne. I will have to make a trip to Sharon to see this in person. Do you know who maintains this building now, since the sect is long gone? I’m very glad to see that it still exists – what a wonderful piece of Ontario history!

    Deb

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    • I’m not a religious person by any stretch of the imagination. I could go on a long tirade about organized religion right now, but I won’t. I think I would be preaching to the converted 😉
      I think that’s why I was so impressed with this group. They achieved so much with their approach of everyone-benefits-when-everyone-wins.
      Unfortunately, it is always tone from the top, and when the leader is replaced with someone whose values are different, or who fails to walk-the-talk, everything changes. In this case, there was no ‘glue’ anymore.

      The building was almost torn down in the early 1900s, but in a rare move for the times, it was designated a heritage site in 1917. The property is now a museum – think a scaled down version of Black Creek Pioneer Village. It was fascinating and I’ll be writing more about this place in a future post.

      Liked by 2 people

  29. Breathtakingly beautiful, Joanne. I love how everything has a meaning. The building and doors are all fascinating. The photo with the stairway…fantastic. I can see why you enjoyed this building. What a great find!

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    • When we first headed out to see the building, I thought we would be there only 10 or 15 minutes. We discovered however that the grounds were like a pioneer village with other heritage buildings. We actually spent over 2 hours there – and all of it we were enthralled.

      Liked by 1 person

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