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Friday 15 January 2016

The Holy Moly Doors at Toronto's Our Lady of Sorrows Parish

Nestled on the main road of the Kingsway, Bloor Street, in what was Etobicoke and now part of the City of Toronto is one of the more beautiful churches in Toronto west of the downtown, Our Lady of Sorrows. In my view, the prettiest one is a little further along, Our Lady of Peace, but the church to Her Seven Sorrows is a real gem. It was built in 1940 in the Lombard style and has one of the finest tracker organs in Canada, a Casavant. The ceiling is wonderfully coffered and the apse and clerestory have over 1,000,000 marble tiles forming a stunning mosaic which was completed in 1962.

Below is a picture of the church after the completion of the most "ambitious and extensive mosaic production in the New World north of Mexico." 


THE CANADIAN REGISTER, Kingston, Ontario. Jan. 7, 1961
REBIRTH OF MOSAIC ART IN ETOBICOKE CHURCH TORONTO - An art form begun by the Sumerians of the Euphrates Valley in BC has planted firm feet in Canada. Mosaics have been installed in Toronto's Church of Our Lady of Sorrows, as part of a renovation program. The Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin are portrayed in larger - than - life - size reproductions complemented by highlights from the life of Christ.
The mosaics were executed by the Svoboda Studio under the direction of Count Alexander von Svoboda. The work began on March 21st 1960 and seven tons of tiles, in 150 colours, were used to make up the mosaics, which cover about 10,000 square feet of the clerestory walls and the apse of the church. The cutting and placing of the tiny individual tiles were done in a studio by 13 mosaicists. As major segments were completed they were transferred to the church for installation by the craftsmen. Installation in the church began on May 1, with artists working five days a week and, on Saturdays, clearing away materials and tools so that services could be conducted as usual each Sunday. Count von Svoboda was born and educated in Vienna and for the past ten years has been identified with the creation of several murals in Canadian buildings.
This effort is realised, in what is perhaps the most ambitious and extensive mosaic production in the New World north of Mexico.

The parish is in a privileged community with homes in the multi-millions, money is no problem, that is to be sure. A few years ago the original altar cross was removed and relegated to a side wall to be replaced by a painting of Christ Pantocrator. Not that the painting is in itself a bad thing, but to remove the original altar cross on an already reconstructed High Altar, was not helpful. Nor was it necessary. It is a beautiful painting with much colour. It is an iconographic and unsuited to the rest of the mosaic and if there was anything not needed, it was more colour. It was controversial at the time and you can clearly see why! Taking down the historic and original Crucifix was wrong and without any justification.

It certainly seems that this parish has more money than it knows what to do with and looks for ways to spend it and it begs the question, "when is more, too much?"

Now, I am all for beauty in our buildings and our liturgy. I abhor modernist church buildings and would support the raising of funds to restore
 and maintain our ecclesiastical architectural heritage. That includes the Cathedral of St. Michael in Toronto which suffered a century of neglect to the point where tens of millions are necessary to restore and save it from literal collapse. It was a pretty "poor" building to begin with built with pennies of poor Irish immigrants.

Getting back to Our Lady of Sorrows.
The original doors can be seen in this wedding photo

Did I write that sometimes, a parish has more money than it knows what to do with? I would think if they were looking for something proper and worthwhile a restoration of the marble sanctuary floor from that filthy brown carpet and the marble communion rail and the mensa of the High Altar might have been one option.

Now to the holy-moly doors. The Church had beautiful, powerful oak doors with a coffered design which suited the structure and reflected the ceiling of the interior nave.

A few months ago, a friend asked me if I'd seen the new doors of solid bronze with the relief of St. Michael the Archangel, I had not but made it a point on my next trip by. Well, what can one say? To say they were out of place with the original design would be an understatement.

Yesterday, I arrived home to find my free copy, since I don't subscribe but someone does for me, of The Catholic Register. There, on page 4 was a picture of the doors from the inside and the price - $400,000.00. That's right, you read that correctly. The Holy-Moly Doors were $400,000.00. The Catholic Register was not wrong and that was not an added a "0", as I confirmed the accuracy of the number with the Editor. 

Four. Hundred. Thousand. Dollars. For two doors.

Let us not compare this to Our Lord and the ointment where Judas complained about the cost of it. The ointment was what was of value, not the vessel it was in which was probably clay and the action of the anointing was the point. It is what is inside the church and our hearts. The fact is, there could have been nothing wrong with the old oak doors that could not have been fixed. Even if one argued that they needed to be replaced they could have been reproduced for perhaps ten, or twenty thousand. But seriously - solid bronze doors which required modification to the walls to be supported for $400,000.00 - this was necessary? One can only recall Cary Grant in The Bishop's Wife (Episcopalian, of course) and his admonition about "tough times for the world."

Now, lest any of my fellow Etobians or anyone from the parish be upset at Vox for reporting this, you might first direct that to the Catholic Register. They made public your nearly half a million dollar expenditure on two doors, so don't blame me.

Oh, and by the way, what happened to the originals?


Barona said...

Think of what that money could have done for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Africa who do not even have roofs over their churches, after being burnt down by Islamists.

Or, think of the poverty in Toronto.

This is an exercise if feel good externals. This is disgusting, sinful, outrageous.

Thanks for posting this.

Ignotus said...

Is this the "good stewardship" of the Cardinal managing the capital campaign money? Did the people of OLS know they were giving their money to 400,000 doors?

I wonder about other parishes - the 100,000 kitchen renovation at Holy Rosary in Toronto.... But lest people think I'm "urbaniphobic" I should also mention the 80,000 renovation to the pastors bedroom and bathroom at St Mary's in Richmond Hill... Do the people of these parishes know how their money is being spent? What about the people at Transfiguration in Etobicoke, left $1,000,000 or more poorer by a former pastor, who thought the collection money would be better spent at a casino?

Everyday For Life Canada said...

Barona makes a great point. We should be helping our persecuted and dying brothers and sisters in the faith, presently occurring in too many parts of the world. Have you heard about this issue in your parish? Have you heard of any mention of the radical sex "education" curriculum being implemented in our schools? I think most have not. But we all know about the Family of Faith professionally run fundraiser. That says it all. As if money and expensive doors alone will renew and streghten the faith. It's all so very sad.

Freyr said...

It is the presence of our Lord in the tabernacle that transforms a place from an ordinary place to a sacred space. His presence can sanctify a barn and His absence can render a "cathedral" an empty shell. We ignore spiritual realities and are far too attached to the vagaries of atmosphere, artwork, decor and architecture. We are human and our dependence on externals is perhaps understandable but it can easily become a vice.

Jim J. McCrea said...

My parents were married at Our Lady of Sorrows in 1957.

Bear said...

When the bishop of Hamilton began to build a new cathedral in 1931, he was pilloried in the press for choosing to do so. Times were hard, and the money- a whopping million dollars- could be better spent elsewhere helping the poor. The building could be put off for a better time. The bishop disagreed. "In a more prosperous time, we will pay a more prosperous price." And so Christ the King was

The argument that the money for these doors would have been better spent elsewhere is easy to make and hard to refute, but it is also one that has been used time and again by those who would have us sell all our properties and art, and who would have us never build another church that is more than four walls and a roof, or, more precisely, would never have us build another church. I haven't seen these doors and have no comment to make on them, but I would hesitate to make the 'better spent' argument against them because I am so tired of hearing it used against me.

Vox Cantoris said...

Sorry Bear-i-tone, you are wrong on this one. You cannot compare this to the building of the Cathedral in Hamilton or the art in a sanctuary, altarware, organ and other such things to the Glory of God. These are doors. Two doors. Four hundred thousand dollars. How many years will you work for that? Do you think that it was a good expenditure? Does it matter what they look like? They are frankly, overpowering. There is a relief of St. Michael slaying the dragon. Good. The doors do not suit the building. There was nothing wrong with the formal doors that some varnish could not have fixed.

Sorry, your argument does not apply to two doors at the insane cost.

Vox Cantoris said...


s said...

My father is very pleased.

s said...

Is the pastor receptive to the new liturgical movement or is the place hopelessly desacralised? Sam X.

Anonymous said...

Money is no object for doors in the year of mercy! If you walk thru these Holy-Moly doors during the Jubilee, you get TWO plenary indulgences!

Anonymous said...

I can't imagine why anyone would want to tear down that beautiful crucifix. Please say that they didn't tear down that magnificent altar as well. I couldn't tell by the photo.

Lord, have mercy!

P.S. I would like to post under my name, but I use Disqus and it's not listed under the options, so that's why I have to post as anonymous.

Vox Cantoris said...

The Crucifix now hangs on a side wall. The Altar is there but without the Mensa which is part of the table.

s said...

A crucifix pushed to the side amounts to pushing the Crucified Jesus and his Sacrifice to the periphery of awareness. My dear father is very pleased. Who do we have to thank? Was it Rev. Cavuto or one of the Toronto "auxiliary Bishops" ? Screwtape

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the information. My heart is sinking right now.

How long, O Lord... (Psalm 6)

Anonymous said...

Hello Vox Cantoris

this church door is not the Holy door of teh archdiocese of Toronto. Also do you have any proof to say that they have spent $ 400 000.00 on this new door to the church

Vox Cantoris said...

Hello Anonymous,

1. I never said they were the "Holy Door" or Magic sin forgiving mercy door of the Archdiocese of Toronto. The title was a play on words, you know. Holy Door, Holy Moly as in a lot of money?

2. Did you read the article? Did you note that it was in Toronto's Archdiocesan owned Catholic Register, Page 4 bottom right the one with the Freemason Mozart on the cover?

What you don't know is that I communicated with the Editor, Jim O'Leary, to confirm that there was not "0" missing. There was not.


Take it up with Nino!

Anonymous said...

I'm going anonymous with my reply as I live in fear of Vox and his rapier fingertips. Take a look at the last picture. The door (singular) was a gift to the parish from a group of wealthy Catholics within the Archdiocese, including several wealthy parish families. It was NOT purchased with Family of Faith dollars and thus NOT by unknowing Sorrows parishioners at large. This is fact. More facts: The door was created in Italy by one of the foremost sculptors of our time, Ernesto Lamagna (www.ernestolamagna.it), former secretary for sculpture at the Pontifical Academy of Fine Arts and Letters. He has created masterpieces for many Catholic churches around the world. The panels, frame (and keys!) are cast bronze and, as one might well imagine, weigh a whole lot (sorry but I don't have a number - suffice to say that the crane and crew struggled). The shipping alone amounted to tens of thousands of dollars. Plus installation. The door is a piece of fine art. Eye of the beholder, remember? These eyes behold a beautiful work that matches astonishingly well with the architecture of the church. It tells two moving stories remarkably well. It will be something people come to see, study, photograph and write about for generations. And you, dear reader... Have you come to see the door? The parish and indeed the archdiocese, is blessed to have it. In 1964/65 many cried foul at the exorbitant cost of the pipe organ ($37,500) and many more hated the mosaics and were shocked by their cost. Beautiful things - be they a pipe organ, marble panels, mosaics, a bespoke icon, or a door - COST MONEY. How much money is reflective of the times in which they are acquired. Oh and the carpet is burgundy, not brown, and is cleaned regularly, thank you very much. It will be removed soon enough in favor of a newly restored sanctuary floor. Looking forward to Vox's take on Renovations: Phase Two - 'The Cube'. Should be quite a ride (and read!)

L McCarron said...

Comment to Anonymous; yes wealthy parishioners paid for the hideous, ostentatious new doors. The wealthy affect EVERYTHING in this parish; which makes many of us feel unwelcome. Unless a tone of complete inclusiveness is created, many will attend Mass in other parishes.