St. James Cathedral

Rising from the snowy ground in the midst of its tree-filled park in downtown Toronto, the Anglican Cathedral of Saint James stands, graceful and strong.  It is long since it was the tallest building in the city, but it still remains, holding itself in serene beauty; it is a bastion of peace in a busy metropolis.  Impervious to the cars passing by, the dogs scurrying at its feet and the crane, mere meters away, doing construction work on a neighbouring building, the Cathedral abides as it has for a century and more.  The bell tower comes to life to strike two o’clock, and I wonder if anyone else can hear it over the bustle of urban life, and whether they will stop to think about the marvel that is this simple beauty, in the midst of the city, dedicated to the Glory and Worship of God.

And the beauty of this church is indeed simple.  It is not made of the Italian marble now being stripped off First Canadian Place, nor is it coated in gold like the Royal Bank Towers.  It is neither the tallest nor the largest of churches; it is built to modest proportions.  It is not highly decorated, with only a few simple sculptures and carvings adorning its columns and eves. However, its bell tower and spire, rise gracefully above the church, adding greatly to the structure’s grandeur and elegance.  The cathedral’s walls are built of seemingly mundane yellow brick, but, observing it from a bench in St. James park on this December afternoon, it seems to me that this material is entirely appropriate.  As it stands among the other brick and mortar buildings of the city, the church harmonizes with its surroundings and becomes a part of the urban environment.  Rather than standing aloof in obstinate beauty, the cathedral beautifies the area and seems to bring out the qualities of surrounding structures.

Here indeed is a building that has weathered the inconceivable changes of centuries, and the complete transformation of a community to which it was once a heart, of a society of which it was once a symbol, and of the institutions which call it home.  It has stood at the corner of King and Church for many years, and it will continue to do so for many more, even if the streets change.