A lithograph of the original church ceiling in St. Michael's Cathedral. Image curtesy of the archives of the Archdiocese of Toronto.
Saint Michael's Cathedral
Saint Michael's Cathedral was consecrated in 1848. Designed by William Thomas in the style of the English Gothic Revival, the construction of St. Michael's Cathedral was funded primarily by Irish immigrants. Throughout its history, the interior of the Cathedral was painted in a variety of schemes. Currently, the renovations are focused not only on necessary structural and exterior repair work, but also on an extensive interior restoration to its original Gothic Revival intentions.
Our studio's design for the ceiling, beams, walls and shields focused on maintaining the spirit of the original intent while simultaneously presenting completely new and original designs specific to the Cathedral. The design of the stars and use of gold leaf draws the eyes upwards while highlighting the architectural and structural elements.
The originality in design of accenting the diagonals in our ceiling composition is not only reminiscent of monumental Gothic architectural motifs, but also emphasizes the grandeur and verticality of St.Michael's Cathedral.
The use of genuine gold leaf in ecclesiastical art symbolizes eternal and divine light. In our design of the ceiling and structural elements we used two contrasting karats of gold leaf.
The blue and red borders around the gold stars serve to emphasize the existing Sanctuary and West-end stained glass windows. The background blue color of the ceiling composition correlates to the stained glass lancet windows throughout the Cathedral. It unifies the entire space under one cohesive composition.
There are eight, intricately sculpted plaster bosses at the apex of the ceiling. By utilizing gold leaf and colors introduced into the space with other elements of our design work, we highlighted the bosses and anchored them within the ceiling design.
The Holy Spirit
This shield features a dove, often used to depict the Holy Spirit that descended upon Jesus at his baptism. The dove’s halo is inlaid with three rays, which indicate the Holy Spirit as one of the three persons of the Holy Trinity. The symbol also features seven stars, alluding to the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Trinity
This shield features the triquetra, also known as the trefoil knot, which became a popular symbol with the Celtic Revival of the 19th century. It is reminiscent of the three-leaf clover offered up as a symbol of the Trinity by St. Patrick. The history and use of this symbol alludes to the strong Irish heritage of St. Michael's Cathedral.
Five Holy Wounds
The symbol of the Five Holy Wounds refers to the five wounds suffered by Christ during the crucifixion. This original design places the symbols of the wounds in the format of the crucifixion and includes the Crown of Thorns as a symbol of the instruments of passion used to inflict further pain upon Christ.
The Jesse Tree
The Tree of Jesse is utilized to illustrate the genealogy of the Virgin Mary and Christ. The root grows out of the abdomen of Jesse of Bethlehem, father of King David, and signifies the lineage of kings. The stem symbolizes the Virgin Mary, depicted by her monogram. The flower of the tree symbolizes Jesus Christ, and is depicted through the use of the Latin Christogram "IHS".
Symbol of Saint Joseph
As the patron Saint of Canada, St. Joseph’s shield features three white lilies and a carpenter’s square. The lilies symbolize his purity and obedience to God while the carpenter’s square alludes to his profession and trade. These symbols are flanked by three letter J’s, which are commonly used to further represent Saint Joseph.
The Mystical Rose & Seven Sorrows
The Mystical rose is used to symbolize the Virgin Mary and is depicted in this shield with two colors. The white rose symbolizes Mary’s purity, innocence and chastity while the purple rose symbolizes her humility. Underneath the Mystical rose is a heart pierced with seven blades to indicate the seven sorrows suffered by the Virgin Mary.
This shield features the Pelican, which symbolizes Jesus the Redeemer. The Pelican is seen slicing open her own breast to feed her children with her own blood. This offers a strong image of our Lord who suffered and died for us to grant us eternal life.
World War I Commemoration
The poppy was adopted in the early half of the 20th century as a symbol of remembrance for those who perished in the First World War and was inspired by the poem "In Flanders Fields", where author Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae writes of the red poppies which grew on the graves of soldiers. We wished to highlight this symbol while interpreting it for an ecclesiastical setting.
The Lamb of God
The Book of Revelation describes the Lamb as lion-like and a "Lord of all lords and King of all kings". The Lamb is further used to reference Christ, as seen in the Gospel of John: "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world". He is depicted holding a white banner with a red cross and sometimes with blood pouring out of this chest to symbolize Christ shedding he blood to rid us of sin.
Christogram Chi Rho
The Chi Rho Christogram, one of the earliest Christograms, is derived from the Greek word "Christos", meaning Christ. The symbol of the fish os seen many times throughout scripture as a symbol of resurrection and of Christ Himself.