Early Anglo-Saxon churches in the UK often had a north door entrance to the nave of the church. Although not considered to be significant at the time, later medieval superstitions led to the north door of a church being known as “The Devil’s Door.”
The Devil’s Door was intended to be left open during any infant baptisms in the church, so that any evil spirits could escape as the child was christened. In medieval times, the north side of the church was considered to be the “sinister” side (Latin: sinestre = left), the side where the evil spirits could hide in the shadows of the building. Following the Reformation (1530s), many of these doors were removed or blocked up.
The north side of a church yard had similar connotations, as it was sometimes used for the burial of suicides, criminals, and infants who had not been baptised.
I learned all of this while visitng Escomb Saxon Church near Bishop Auckland, England. Escomb Church is considered to be the best preserved Anglo-Saxon church in England. The following images of the church are my contribution to this week’s Thursday Doors blog, published by Norm Frampton.
I have been waiting for an opportunity to post a couple of images that include people and columns. Columns are obviously an essential element in the design of structures. In classical and neo-classical architecture, decorative columns were used to identify the main entry to a building, which was usually raised above street level, requiring steps to reach the entrance. The steps and the spaces beneath and between the columns have become places for people, who are often dwarfed by the scale and immensity of the columns. These are great places for people to gather and people-watch.
My door theme for this week includes doors that are part of a Neo-Classical entry design. The first common elements associated with this theme are columns that have a Classical motif. In my first example, the columns are a “faux” element applied to the simple exterior of an industrial building. The other two examples include actual columns – with the third one having columns that physically support a portico above the main entrance.
The second common element is the fanlight window above each door. All three windows have radiating mullions which fan out from the top of the door.
All of these door images are from Toronto, where this style of architecture is often referred to as “Georgian.”
For more blog posts on doors, visit Norm’s Thursday Doors post for this week.
This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge inspired me to experiment with some “other world” treatment of a recent image. There is a new pedestrian bridge connecting the Eaton Centre with the Hudson’s Bay store in downtown Toronto. The architectural design of the structure has a space-age look, and adding some blurring to the image gives it that final touch.
This is my third and final post on the downtown Toronto buildings that I visited as part of Doors Open Toronto. Before I describe these buildings, I thought that I would provide some more background on the event.
Doors Open Toronto provides an opportunity to visit buildings in the GTA that may or may not be regularly open to the public. The event also includes walking tours and other special events such as guest speakers, visits to architects’ offices and concerts.
This event was originally developed by the City of Toronto as a millennium project in 2000, and just completed its 18th annual showing, on the last weekend in May. Toronto was the first North American city to offer a Doors Open program, which has inspired many similar events. The event relies on all of the participating businesses and organizations, the financial support of several sponsors, and the efforts of many volunteers.
The Toronto Star newspaper (one of the sponsors) publishes a broadsheet map and listing of all of the opening buildings a couple of weeks before the event. This is very useful for planning your itinerary. The City of Toronto also maintains a website that lists all of the buildings and provides some background information on each one.
Some of the most useful information on the website includes the photography regulations for each site. There are three basic options for shooting indoors: not permitted; permitted without tripod; or permitted with or without tripod. There are similar levels of restrictions on interior filming. I have discovered in other indoor shooting in Toronto that there is a lot of emphasis placed on governing the use of tripods. I am at a loss to understand why tripods are not allowed inside some buildings.
The theme for this set of images is social spaces. First on my itinerary was St. George’s Hall, which is home to the Arts & Letters Club of Toronto. This building – opened in 1891 – was originally the home of the St. George’s Society, a charitable organization which supported new immigrants to Toronto. The A&L Club moved in as a tenant in 1920 and, much later, purchased the building in 1986.
As this is a private club, public access on the weekend was a special occasion. It was only in 1985 that the Club welcomed women as members. The Club has a permanent art collection on display, and also exhibits artistic work by its club members. In the 1920’s, the Club became a meeting place for artists, some of whom became known as the Group of Seven. They included J.E.H. MacDonald, who was Club President from 1928 to 1930.
Massey Hall is a concert hall that was first opened in 1894. The building was financed by Hart Massey, a devout Methodist and a founder of the Massey-Harris agricultural equipment corporation. Massey donated the hall to the city for “musical entertainments of a moral and religious character, evangelical, educational, temperance, and benevolent work.” The temperance movement was an important part of the hall’s history, as no alcohol was allowed on the premises until a bar – named Centuries – was opened 100 years later.
Massey Hall was the home of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir until 1982, when both groups moved into their new location at Roy Thompson Hall. Both of these facilities are collectively managed by one non-profit corporation. Massey Hall is now primarily used for rock concerts, and it can seat about 2,700 patrons.
The fire escapes were added to the front facade in 1911 to improve fire exiting. A revitalization project, to be funded as part of the development of a nearby condominium on Yonge Street, will address some of the shortcomings in public gathering areas outside the main hall and the backstage area. If the project renderings are to be believed, the exterior fire escapes will be removed as part of the upgrade.
The address of Massey Hall is listed as 178 Victoria Street, yet the main entry doors and box office are actually located on Shuter Street. I find this confusing.
St. Lawrence Hall is located one block north of the St. Lawrence Market. The hall was constructed in 1850 and it was Toronto’s first large meeting hall. It was named for the downtown neighbourhood, or ward, where it is located.
When the hall first opened, thousands of African American slaves were fleeing to Canada after the US Congress enacted the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. The hall became an important meeting place for the abolitionist movement, and hosted the North American Convention of Colored Freemen in 1851.
The opening of larger performance centres, such as Massey Hall in the 1890’s, led to a decline in use of St. Lawrence Hall. However, it was refurbished in 1967 as part of a centennial project, and is now a popular venue for weddings, conferences and art shows.
I like the symmetry of the front entrance and facade. Too bad that the period street lights were not so precisely aligned.
After a hiatus of several weeks, I am back to blogging on doors. My previous posts on doors have used images taken from my travels in other countries. This time, I thought it would be a good idea to keep closer to home in Toronto. I have only lived in Toronto for the past three years, so there is still much for me to discover in this city.
A perfect opportunity presented itself with the 18th annual Doors Open Toronto event, hosted by the City of Toronto. In celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday this year, there were 150 buildings open for public viewing across the City on the May 27-28 weekend.
The curatorial theme – Fifteen Decades of Canadian Architecture – was intended to highlight the evolution of Canadian architecture. I used this opportunity to focus on several of the older buildings in downtown Toronto, and discover some of their features.
In keeping with Norm’s Thursday Doors blog theme, I have focused on the doors at some places of worship in Part 1.
St. George’s Greek Orthodox Church was built in the 1890’s and was originally named Holy Blossom Temple. It served as a synagogue for the first 40 years, before it was acquired by the Parish of St. George. The church is a good example of Byzantine religious architecture.
The tympanum (the decorative half-circle space over the entrance) originally had Hebraic lettering. A mosaic of St. George and the dragon was incorporated after the building became a Greek Orthodox church.
There are many variations on the myth of St. George. Many of these myths – involving St. George and the slaying of a dragon – evolved in medieval times. St. George, with the white shield and the red cross, representing good, and the dragon representing evil. Earlier stories of St. George still had something to do with Christianity, but nothing to do with dragons.
The church doors were open for viewing of the interior, but interior photos were not permitted; however, they did have a book of photos available for sale.
Doors open at St. George’s Greek Orthodox Church
St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica was built in the 1840’s and preceded Canada’s confederation. During this decade, there was an influx of Irish emigrants to Toronto, escaping the Great Famine, and contributing to a doubling of the number of Catholics in the Diocese of Toronto. The church was designed in the gothic style and was just recently refurbished. The Archdiocese of Toronto is celebrating its 175th anniversary this year.
St. Michael’s Choir School originally opened in a single room in the diocesan office building next to the basilica in 1937. It reopened in a new location across the street in 1950. Although it is a newer building, the front door reflects some of the gothic elements of the past.
The Cathedral Church of St. James was opened a few years later in 1853, and it is also an example of Gothic Revival architecture. The main entrance is quite impressive, while the side door is still quite an elaborate mini-version of the front entry.
The Church of the Holy Trinity is tucked away on one side of the Eaton Centre, which was forced to be built around the existing church. The church was opened in 1847 and was dedicated to the Holy Trinity. The Holy Trinity was associated with the “Catholic Revival” in the Church of England, which implied a return to Medieval art and a renewed sense of social responsibility.
The church congregation has been a lead in fostering social diversity in Toronto, and is considered to be a home for the LGBTQ community.
First Evangelical Lutheran Church was not on the Doors Open Toronto list of buildings, so the doors were not open. I wonder what is behind the green doors?
“There’s an old piano
And they play it hot behind the green door
Don’t know what they’re doing
But they laugh a lot behind the green door
Wish they’d let me in so I could find out
What’s behind the green door”