Archives of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto
St. Paul's Basilica, Celebrating 200 Years
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  • Groups: St. Paul's Basilica, Celebrating 200 Years
  • St. Paul's Church, History and Directory 1899
        Published in 1899, this booklet is a treasure trove of information that will delight anyone with an interest in the early day's of Toronto, particularly the east end. The advertisements found throughout the booklet provide a fascinating glimpse into not only turn of the century Toronto, but more importantly, the ...
      Published in 1899, this booklet is a treasure trove of information that ...
  • St. Paul's Roman Catholic Church, 1899-1999
        In celebration of it's 100th Anniversary in 1999, Historian Michael Power crafted, St. Paul's Roman Catholic Church, as concise and informative a history of St. Paul's as you are likely to find anywhere, As St. Paul's once again gets ready to celebrate another milestone anniversary, it's 200th, it is worth ...
      In celebration of it's 100th Anniversary in 1999, Historian Michael Power crafted, ...
  • Ledger, St. Paul's Church, 1841
        This Ledger offers a unique glimpse into how St. Paul's functioned as a parish in it's earliest years. Along with the usual things one would expect to find in a ledger, the book also contains information that will be of particular interest to family historians. At one time, it was ...
      This Ledger offers a unique glimpse into how St. Paul's functioned as ...
  • Rev. John Laurence Hand
        Portrait of Rev. Msgr. John Laurence Hand, vicar general and pastor at St. Paul's Basilica. Photo is in a card frame.
      Portrait of Rev. Msgr. John Laurence Hand, vicar general and pastor at ...
  • St. Paul's Basilica, WWI Plaque
        Joseph Anderson; Joseph Aspinwall; Claude Barker; Albert Brennan; Thomas Burns; James Carr; Norman Chadwick; John Collins; Michael Conlon; David Dillon; Joseph P. Dillon; James Doyle; James Falvey; Edwin Fitzgerald; Ambrose Flanagan; John Flanagan; William Foley; Thomas Fox; Bart Freeman; John Gilroy; George Gloynes; Hugh Goodwin; Frank Gorman; Harry Green; John ...
      Joseph Anderson; Joseph Aspinwall; Claude Barker; Albert Brennan; Thomas Burns; James Carr; ...
  • St. Paul's Elementary School, First Communion Class
        Group photograph of a girls' First Communion class, St. Paul's Elementary School, Toronto.
      Group photograph of a girls' First Communion class, St. Paul's Elementary School, ...
  • St. Paul's Basilica, Painting of St. Paul's Conversion
        Close-up photograph of the painting of St. Paul's Conversion situated above the sanctuary of St. Paul's Church.
      Close-up photograph of the painting of St. Paul's Conversion situated above the ...
  • St. Paul's Basilica, Old Church Building
        Copy of a sketch of the old St. Paul's Church building that existed from 1826 to 1889. Original is located in the Baldwin Room of the Metropolitan Toronto Reference Library - #T10805.
      Copy of a sketch of the old St. Paul's Church building that ...
  • St. Paul's Basilica, Exterior View
        Exterior view of St. Paul's taken c1914. This photograph is part of an album containing 45 silver gelatin prints mounted on fabric. The album was commissioned in 1914 and reflects the geographical boundaries of the archdiocese at that time.
      Exterior view of St. Paul's taken c1914. This photograph is part of ...
  • St. Paul's Basilica, Interior looking down main aisle
        Long view of main aisle from back of church. From 1980-1982 the Chancery of the Archdiocese of Toronto commissioned an architectural inventory for all Church-owned buildings. This project included a descriptive inventory of buildings, a catalogue of architectural drawings, and interior and exterior photographs of the buildings ...
      Long view of main aisle from back of church. From 1980-1982 the ...
  • St. Paul's Basilica, Organ Loft
        The Organ Loft in St. Paul's Basilica From 1980-1982 the Chancery of the Archdiocese of Toronto commissioned an architectural inventory for all Church-owned buildings. This project included a descriptive inventory of buildings, a catalogue of architectural drawings, and interior and exterior photographs of the buildings.
      The Organ Loft in St. Paul's Basilica From 1980-1982 the Chancery of ...
  • St. Paul's Basilica, Side Aisle
        Interior front of St. Paul's taken from side rear of the church. From 1980-1982 the Chancery of the Archdiocese of Toronto commissioned an architectural inventory for all Church-owned buildings. This project included a descriptive inventory of buildings, a catalogue of architectural drawings, and interior and exterior photographs of the ...
      Interior front of St. Paul's taken from side rear of the church. ...
  • St. Paul's Basilica, The Organ
        Organ in St. Paul's Basilica From 1980-1982 the Chancery of the Archdiocese of Toronto commissioned an architectural inventory for all Church-owned buildings. This project included a descriptive inventory of buildings, a catalogue of architectural drawings, and interior and exterior photographs of the buildings.
      Organ in St. Paul's Basilica From 1980-1982 the Chancery of the Archdiocese ...
  • St. Paul's Basilica, Chapel
        The south west chapel in St. Paul's Church. From 1980-1982 the Chancery of the Archdiocese of Toronto commissioned an architectural inventory for all Church-owned buildings. This project included a descriptive inventory of buildings, a catalogue of architectural drawings, and interior and exterior photographs of the buildings.
      The south west chapel in St. Paul's Church. From 1980-1982 the Chancery ...
  • St. Paul's Elementary School, Girls Class
        Group photograph of girls from St. Paul's School seated at their desks.
      Group photograph of girls from St. Paul's School seated at their desks.
  • St. Paul's Basilica, Confirmation Class
        Group photograph of a girls' Confirmation class of St. Paul's School with Reverend John L. Hand, Pastor of St. Paul's Parish, in the middle.
      Group photograph of a girls' Confirmation class of St. Paul's School with ...
  • St. Paul's Basilica, Stained Glass Window, South Transept
        Eastern most window in south transept From 1980-1982 the Chancery of the Archdiocese of Toronto commissioned an architectural inventory for all Church-owned buildings.
      Eastern most window in south transept From 1980-1982 the Chancery of the ...
  • St. Paul's Basilica, Stained Glass Window, South Transept
        Western most window in south transept From 1980-1982 the Chancery of the Archdiocese of Toronto commissioned an architectural inventory for all Church-owned buildings.
      Western most window in south transept From 1980-1982 the Chancery of the ...
  • St. Paul's Basilica, Stained Glass Window, North Transept
        Western most window in north transept. From 1980-1982 the Chancery of the Archdiocese of Toronto commissioned an architectural inventory for all Church-owned buildings.
      Western most window in north transept. From 1980-1982 the Chancery of the ...
  • St. Paul's Basilica, Stained Glass Window, North Transept
        Eastern most window in north transept From 1980-1982 the Chancery of the Archdiocese of Toronto commissioned an architectural inventory for all Church-owned buildings.
      Eastern most window in north transept From 1980-1982 the Chancery of the ...
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St. Paul's Basilica, Celebrating 200 Years



Established in 1822, St. Paul’s is the mother church of the Archdiocese of Toronto. The first St. Paul’s, of red brick and Gothic style, was completed in 1824. After the diocese was created in 1841, Bishop Michael Power used St. Paul’s as his cathedral until the completion of the construction of St. Michael’s Cathedral in 1848. In 1847, a typhus epidemic raged through the city, killing 850 people, including Bishop Power. Many were buried on the grounds of St. Paul’s Church and School, though the majority were moved to St. Michael’s Cemetery at Yonge and St. Clair.

The parish continued to grow, serving the spiritual and social needs of immigrants and the poor. A number of religious orders have served the parish. Among the first were the Loretto Sisters, the Sisters of St. Joseph and the Christian Brothers, followed by the Little Brothers of the Good Shepherd and the Congregation of Notre Dame.

In 1880, Bishop Thomas Timothy O’Mahony was appointed Pastor. He had served in his native Ireland and Australia and was a man of great vision and energy. The old St. Paul’s had to be replaced in order to accommodate the rapidly growing Catholic population of Toronto. Bishop O’Mahony soon began planning a new church with architect Joseph Connolly. They designed a large structure in Italian Romanesque style, which was rather extraordinary in a city of Gothic churches. The cornerstone was blessed in 1887 by Elzear-Alexandre Cardinal Taschereau, Archbishop of Quebec. The first Mass was celebrated just before Christmas of 1889.The statue of St. Paul was placed above the centre door in 1899.

Dean John Lawrence Hand was appointed Pastor of St. Paul’s in 1892 and served to 1936. If Connolly designed St. Paul’s and Bishop O’Mahony built it, Dean Hand completed the church and made it the work of beauty one sees today. He was responsible for commissioning most of the artwork inside St. Paul’s. The four major paintings in the sanctuary and the side apses were finished in 1893. The all-wood organ was installed in 1898 by R.S. Williams & Son, Toronto, and is the only one of its kind in North America. The stained glass windows were installed a year later, and the Stations of the Cross in 1901. The campanile (bell tower) with the bell from the original church was erected in 1905. Scenes for the life of St. Paul were painted on canvas in 1911. The angels behind the altar were created with the same technique in the 1920s. The bronze Pieta on the from lawn was erected in 1933 as a memorial to Bishop Michael Power and hundreds of parishioners who died during the typhus epidemic of 1847. A plaque at the front entrance bears the names of 81 members of the congregation who died during World War I. Beside the front steps is the grave of Bishop Thomas Timothy O’Mahony.

In 1998, Fr. Tom Day began the process of restoring the church to its original splendour. This continued under Msgr. Brad Massman in collaboration with the architect Charles Hazell. On August 3, 1999, Pope John Paul II elevated St. Paul’s to the rank of Minor Basilica by an Apostolic Decree. To be given this Papal honour, a church must be a centre of liturgical and pastoral life in the diocese and renowned for its antiquity, beauty, canonical significance or devotional popularity. Minor Basilicas receive special concessions such as the privilege of granting plenary indulgence on certain days in a year. The insignia of a Minor Basilica include the Ombrellino or Pavilion (a red and yellow umbrella) and the Tintinnabulum (a processional bell). St. Paul’s is the twentieth church in Canada to receive this honorific title.

The parish is made up of people from many nations. Some 30 languages are spoken in our diverse parish community.