Cathedral building

“…you are fellow citizens of the saints and members of the household of God. You form a building which rises on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone.”   (Ephesians 2: 19-20)

The Cathedral Building

The Diocese of Kingston was founded in 1826 by partition of the Diocese of Quebec, and comprised the whole of Upper Canada west of the Ottawa River. Its first bishop was Alexander Macdonell, previously Auxiliary to the Bishop of Quebec with responsibility for Upper Canada. The size of the original diocese can be judged from the fact that the dioceses of Toronto (1841), Ottawa (1848), Peterborough (1882) and Alexandria (1892) were subsequently carved out of it. Nonetheless, Bishop Macdonell had to make do with the old St joseph’s Church for his Cathedral. Plans for a larger building were soon put in hand, and under Bishop Remigius Gaulin, Macdonell’s successor (1840, 1857), work on the new Cathedral began in 1842. In 1843 the cornerstone was laid; in 1846 the building, though not yet complete, began to be used; and in 1848, on October 4th, the Cathedral was consecrated, together with its single bell, Patrick. The Sesquicentennial Mass of Thanksgiving was celebrated on Sunday, October 4th, 1998.

The Cathedral is built in the Gothic style, with limestone quarried on the spot. It features rib,like buttresses along the east and west outer walls, which you will find echoed on the inner north wall behind the Bishop’s throne. (Unlike most older cathedrals, this church is not oriented – that is to say. when facing the altar you are not facing east, but north.)

The arched windows and the pillars help to support the great weight of the slate (originally tin) roof. The pillars themselves are not of stone, but have a central core of a rough,hewn tree,trunk with wooden moulding around it. Their bases are plaster, and each pillar is supported by limestone blocks which you may see in the crypt. The original roof of English tin lasted for a hundred years, and was replaced fifty years ago by an asbestos shingle.

The major renovation of the fabric of the Cathedral started in 1987. The stonework had reached the point of presenting a danger to passers–by, and, when all that needed doing was attended to, the restoration was destined to cost $7,000,000 (the original cost of the Cathedralwas$30,000!), and to take six years. Many limestone blocks were replaced with carefully matched stone; one of the buttresses and much of the north wall had to be completely rebuilt. The asbestos shingles on the roof were replaced by slate at a cost of $600,000, some of which was raised by the purchase of slates by donors whose names, and those of family members, were inscribed on the underside of the slates.

The various alterations and additions to the Cathedral are described in what follows.

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