Downtown basilica paintings newly resplendent

St. Paul's Basilica: Detail from Apsidal painting: St Paul on the Road to Damascus.

St. Paul’s Basilica: Detail from Apsidal painting: St Paul on the Road to Damascus.

St Paul’s Basilica at Queen and Power Streets is the Mother Church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto, established in 1822.

The present Basilica constructed in Italian Romanesque style and constructed in 1887-1889 with the addition of the bell-tower (campanile) in 1905, replaced an earlier St. Paul’s in red brick Gothic style built in 1824.

In 1999, the church was honoured by Pope John Paul II with the rank of Minor Basilica. In 2000, a

complete restoration of the historic structure and its decorations was taken in hand. The final phase, the restoration of the two major paintings in the apse (St Paul on the Road to Damascus and The Last Supper) and of the Scenes from the life of St. Paul painted in 1911 on canvas and glued to the ceiling of the nave, was completed in spring of 2006, as was the restoration of several of the pipe ranks of the wooden tracker organ, constructed in 1898 by the R. S. Williams Company of Toronto and the only one of its kind in North America.

Now restored to its ancient splendour, St Paul’s continues to serve the spiritual needs of its downtown congregation.

Story and photos by Eric Morse.


The restored apsidal paintings of St Paul’s Basilica. Top, in the half-dome, St Paul on the Road to Damascus (Latin inscription: ‘Saul, Saul, why dost thou persecute me?’ Lower painting: The Last Supper.


Nave of St. Paul’s: Ceiling detail; restored scenes from the Life of St. Paul.


St. Paul’s Basilica: Apsidal painting: St Paul on the Road to Damascus.


St Paul’s, ceiling of the nave looking from the apse toward the restored organ.


St. Paul’s: the main pipe ranks of the restored tracker organ.


The organ again.


St Paul’s Basilica, view of the nave and restored organ from the apse.