Canadian Churches: An Architectural History
Canadian Churches: An Architectural History
Canadian Churches: An Architectural History Canadian Churches: An Architectural History Canadian Churches: An Architectural History Canadian Churches: An Architectural History Canadian Churches: An Architectural History Canadian Churches: An Architectural History

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Publisher: Firefly Books

Author Statement: Peter Richardson and Douglas Richardson, photographs by John de Visser, R.C.A.
Audience: Trade
Specs: more than 400 color photographs and 100 architectural drawings, sidebars, index
Pages: 440
Trim Size: 10" x 11 1/2"
Language code 1: eng
Publication Date: 20071012
Copyright Year: 2007
Price: Select Below

Canadian Churches: An Architectural History

A definitive guide to more than 250 significant and historic churches across Canada, including their history, construction, and architectural details. Photographs by an awarding-winning photographer knowledgeable in historic preservation.

The first definitive guide to Canada's most beautiful and significant churches.

In every city and town in Canada, churches stand as monuments to our spiritual, ethnic and architectural heritage. With as many styles as there are denominations of faith, these buildings tell the story of 250 years of immigrants bringing their Old World traditions into a New World landscape, and of how these traditions changed over time as the country moved west.

These magnificent buildings were constructed by many different denominations and in very different styles, but they all have in common the desire to create a lasting and suitable monument to their faith.

Canadian Churches: An Architectural History is the first definitive guide to more than 250 of the most beautiful and significant churches across the country. Peter Richardson and Douglas Richardson provide the history of each church, including its construction, subsequent alterations or additions, the early congregation, and any architectural details that make these churches unique and noteworthy.

Packed with more than 400 photographs, this book is as beautiful as it is informative. The authors have captured the essence of the buildings as well as the human drama and passion that led to their creation. The rich history and beauty bring a romance to the "architecture of religion" that will leave readers captivated, regardless of their faith.

Canadian Churches is a must for anyone interested in Canadian architecture, history and religion.


Peter Richardson is Emeritus Professor of the University of Toronto in the Department for the Study of Religion. His books include Building Jewish in the Roman East and Herod: King of the Jews and Friend of the Romans.

Douglas Richardson is Emeritus Professor of the University of Toronto in the Department of Fine Art. His books include The Open Gate: Toronto Union Station; Ontario Towns; and A Not Unsightly Building: University College and Its History.

John de Visser has over 50 books to his credit. A member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Canadian Association of Photographers and Illustrators in Communications.


Excerpted from Chapter 1:

Canadian Churches is divided into chapters covering Atlantic Canada, Québec, Ontario, the West and North and a final chapter entitled "Changes." Within those chapters the material is organized chronologically, thematically or geographically. We have made deliberate efforts to include famous churches alongside less well-known buildings: St. Paul's, Halifax, is juxtaposed with the less well-known but contemporary work of the Moravian Brethren in Labrador; the concrete structure of the Oratoire Saint-Joseph in Montréal is compared with 1950s and 60s concrete-shell churches in Saguenay-Lac Saint-Jean; Toronto's famous Group of Seven art in St. Anne's (Anglican) sits alongside icons by Mount Athos monks in St. George's (Greek Orthodox), also in Toronto; Manitoba's Cathédrale Saint-Boniface is compared with Saskatchewan's often overlooked Silton Chapel.

The challenge was always to limit the number of churches. Lists grew and shrank, grew and shrank again and eventually stabilized. Decisions were rethought. Yet many churches we hoped to include had to be left out because of lack of space, not lack of enthusiasm.

Some denominations may seem over-represented, some under-represented and, regrettably, others not represented at all. There are several reasons for this. Church buildings are not distributed across the country in a balanced way. The different historical, social and religious conditions under which the various parts of the country developed means that Québec is dominantly Roman Catholic while Ontario is strongly Protestant and the Prairies are especially rich in Ukrainian churches. Some ecclesiastical traditions have pursued architectural excellence more consistently and more creatively as they have built for their spiritual needs. Two examples of such creative activity are the important 19th-century developments within the Anglican Church and the late 20th-century implementation of the Second Vatican Council's reforms within Roman Catholicism.

Authorial preferences, of course, have also skewed the selection. Still, we have aimed to present a representative group of somewhat more than 250 churches, without attempting to shoehorn all denominations into the table of contents. The book reflects different periods, regions, denominations and styles. Our comments are driven by the architecture of the buildings -- this is "an architectural history" -- but we comment on historical, social, religious, theological and artistic issues as they seem relevant to understanding the buildings as places of worship.

Architecture matters in two fundamental and complementary ways. What architects fashion, and this is especially true of church buildings, both shapes and is shaped. There is a reflexive relationship between a building and its users, between a church and the congregation. On the one hand, a building gives visual form to what is important to a particular religious group and underscores that group's values and priorities. Architecture speaks directly to the relationship between an organization and the society within which it plays its role. To put it the other way around, society and the social order shapes the building. Architecture shapes the values, attitudes and outlooks of the persons who use the buildings. Buildings impose themselves subtly on their users, influencing their emotions, shaping their behaviours and affecting the quality of the activities and relationships within the structure. Each influences the other dynamically and reciprocally.





  • Terra Nova to Atlantic Canada
  • British and American Colonial Traditions
  • Festive Simplicity
  • New Brunswick Town and Country
  • Deep and Holy Poetry
  • Sublime Newfoundland
  • Rational Gothic
  • Cradle on the Waves


  • Counter-Reformation to Vatican II
  • L'ancien régime
  • Anglicanism Triumphant
  • Un métissage canadien
  • Notre-Dame-de-Québec
  • Les riviéres qui marchent
  • La ville aux cent clochers
  • Québec Modernism
  • Pray and Work
  • Glass Tapestries


  • Loyalists to Modernists
  • Sainte-Marie among the Hurons
  • Unity of the Empire
  • Niagara and Southwestern Ontario
  • Spiritual Fusion
  • Fringe of Settlement
  • Victorian Catholicism
  • Can These Bones Live?
  • Victorian Toronto
  • Church and City
  • Byzantium Ontario
  • Group of Seven in Church
  • Resisting Obsolescence

West and North

  • Fur Post to Pacific Rim
  • Pre-Confederation Northwest
  • Vancouver's Island and British Columbia
  • Prairie Settlement
  • Bell Towers of the Eastern Rite
  • Late Victorian Gothic Revival
  • The North
  • Modernist Stirrings
  • Western Modernism


  • Origins
  • Byzantine
  • Medieval
  • Reformation and Baroque
  • The New World
  • Conclusion

Notes and Sources
Glossary of Architectural Terms
Index of Churches

  • Name
  • Location
  • Denomination

General Index

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