The Story of St. Anne's and The Arts

St. Anne’s Church was founded in 1862 to serve the small rural hamlet of Brockton.  As the city grew up around the church, the number of parishioners outgrew the small neo-gothic village church, and in 1907 the present church was constructed in the style of the Byzantine Revival.  In the early 1920s the church interior was decorated and painted with murals by artists who would later become members of Canada’s famous Group of Seven.  These early 20th Century architecture and art decisions are the foundation for a continuing relationship between St. Anne’s and the arts community in Toronto.

Encouraging our own Artists

Over the years, this foundation of Byzantine Revival architecture and Group of Seven paintings has encouraged a longstanding relationship between the St. Anne’s Congregation and the Toronto arts community.  People have come from all over the city to be parishioners following a visit or a concert.  Gilbert & Sullivan performers have joined the St. Anne’s Choir, and parishioners have discovered that they have gifts for performance.

St. Anne’s encourages our own artists. Paintings by our artists are featured on the walls of the Ministry Centre, and also on the "Art Wall" in the Skey Room, where we hold refreshments following Sunday worship. We encourage the musical arts with special presentations by the St. Anne's Choir, and we call together the St. Anne's Orchestra on an occasional basis for Evening Vespers or Concerts.  Please see the events and calendar pages.

We are growing new friendships in the arts, across disciplines of music, art, drama and film. The Arts express our life at St. Anne’s.

Mirabilia - A Miracle on Gladstone Avenue

In October of 2012, St. Anne’s held a 9-day arts festival to mark the 150th anniversary of its founding. St. Anne’s invited neigbhourhood organizations and friends into partnership to present Mirabilia – A Miracle on Gladstone Avenue. The festival's name, Mirabilia, meaning "Things that cause us to wonder," was intriguing to our partners, including Workman Arts, Pax Christi Chorale, NetherMind Artists Collective, and MacGregor Park Art Club. The festival included worship, concerts, lectures, art installations and a film screening. Mirabilia received extensive newspaper, radio and web coverage. The multidisciplinary nature of the festival encouraged repeat visits. Over the course of the week 2500 people participated in Mirabilia. 

St. Anne’s gratefully acknowledges the Snell Trust of the Anglican Foundation for its generous financial support, and our partner organizations for their collaboration and friendship. Feedback from partners and participants has encouraged St. Anne's to offer Mirabilia again in the future. For more information about Mirabilia, see the Downloads page of this website.

Click here to see the Mirabilia photo album.

Architecture of the Byzantine Revival

In 1905, the Rev. Lawrence Skey took a yearlong sabbatical on a quest to find an architectural style suitable for a new larger St. Anne's Church.  He wanted the church to have a significant presence for the working class families whose simple homes now surrounded the small original neo-gothic church.  Skey visited Istanbul where the Hagia Sophia church made a great impression on him - its Byzantine structure represented an era in which Christianity had not hardened into the hostile denominations of his day.  Upon returning to Toronto, Skey conducted an architectural competition and awarded the contract for the construction of the new church to a young Toronto architect, William Ford Howland (1874-1948).  Howland designed the new church in the style known as Byzantine Revival, with a dome and a spacious interior in which everyone would be able to see and hear.  After the new church was completed, the old church was demolished and replaced by the parish hall in 1912.

Murals by the Group of Seven

In the early 1920s, the Rev. Lawrence Skey worked through his connections at Toronto's Arts & Letters Club to find suitable decoration for the church interior. In 1923, he commissioned his friend J.E.H. MacDonald to lead the project.  MacDonald enlisted fellow students at the Ontario College of Art for a total of ten artists.  Three of the ten, MacDonald, Frederick Varley and Franklin Carmichael went on to become members of the Group of Seven, Canada’s iconic movement of impressionist landscape art. MacDonald created small mock-up designs for full-scale murals of the life of Christ.  Each artist painted on canvas in their own studio, and the completed murals were then installed in the church. While MacDonald’s design required them to work from a common palette, forms and backgrounds, the artists expressed their individuality in the completed paintings.  The St. Anne's murals are the only known religious works of the Group of Seven.

Gilbert & Sullivan's Comic Operas

St. Anne’s Music & Drama Society, in its 55th year, will present Gilbert & Sullivan’s Ruddigore from January 26 to February 4, 2018 in the Parish Hall, 651 Dufferin Street. There will be four evening and four matinee performances at 7:30 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. respectively. 

 "Ruddigore, or The Witch's Curse" was the 10th collaboration between Gilbert and Sullivan. The "supernatural opera" opened on January 21, 1887 at the Savoy Theatre and ran for 288 performances.

The opera is a parody of the stock melodrama — the villain who carries off the maiden; the priggishly good-mannered poor-but-virtuous-heroine; the hero in disguise, and his faithful old retainer who dreams of their former glory days; the snake in the grass who claims to be following his heart; the wild, mad girl; the swagger of fire-eating patriotism; ghosts coming to life to enforce a curse; and so forth. But as one critic noted, Gilbert turns the moral absolutes of melodrama upside down: Good becomes bad, bad becomes good, and heroes take the easy way out.

MADS performances are professionally costumed, skillfully staged with a large chorus, and musically enhanced by an 18-piece orchestra. Tickets will be available from November 1, 2017 at 416.922.4415. For further information, please email may also view or download an order form, which gives information about prices and timing, by visiting our downloads page (scroll down to the Music at St. Anne's section).