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The History and Architecture of St. James the Less Chapel

St. James the Less ChapelThe St. James the Less Chapel has served as both a parish church and cemetery for the historic St. James Cathedral for over a century, making it one of Toronto’s central cultural facilities. The rich origins of the St. James the Less Chapel compel tourists and historians from all around the world to visit the Cabbagetown community and walk the Chapel’s religious grounds every year. As St. James the Less Chapel is a also a bold example of Gothic Revival architecture, the structure is considered to be a great pride of the Cabbagetown Conservation District.

A Brief History of the St. James the Less Chapel
In 1842, renowned architect John G. Howard drew up the very first designs of the cemetery chapel. Nearly 15 years later, Cumberland and Storm, two notable Toronto architects, were appointed to the task of preparing the plans for construction, which commenced in 1859. In 1984, a crematorium was added to the chapel’s grounds. Two predominant materials used in the building of the Chapel are Georgetown stone and “white brick” with Ohio stone trim. In terms of the Chapel’s stand-out features, the following observations can be made:

St. James the Less Chapel

  • Steeply pitched roof
  • Deep caves and low sidewalls
  • Protective entrance porch
  • Tall bell tower and broad spire
  • Bold detailing
  • The deep-set trefoil side windows
  • Heavy timbered roof structure with triangular dormers
  • Wood paneling and the stained glass chancel windows


A Brief Timeline of the St. James Cathedral

  • 1807 — The first “Church at York” is built of wood
  • 1813 — The church is damaged by American troops during the War of 1812
  • 1818 — The church is expanded and restored, with the addition of a bell tower
  • 1833 — The wooden church is torn down and replaced with a Neo-Classical stone structure
  • 1839 — The church burns down, but later remodelled and named a cathedral
  • 1844 — Sixty-five acres purchased for cemetery
  • 1849 — Once again, the cathedral burns down
  • 1853 — Restore Gothic Revival cathedral introduced
  • 1865 — Bells are installed in the cathedral’s tower
  • 1875 — The spire is completed
  • 1910 — The parish house opens its doors, later renovated in 1959
  • 1953 — New vestry added and the sacristy refitted
  • 1982 — All major renovations are completed
  • 1997 — Bicentenary celebrated, peal of 12 change-ringing bells installed

St. James the Less Chapel    St. James the Less Chapel

About Addy Saeed

Addy is a full time REALTOR® in Toronto, ON with RE/MAX ® and is involved in different real estate projects alongside community and charity events. An avid investor, auto enthusiast, music lover and long time adventurer. He can be contacted by calling 1-877-439-2339