Stained glass windows and churches go hand in hand. The church of St. Simon and St. Peter on Bloor Street East is no exception.  The church was built as St. Simon the Apostle, on the northern fringe of the city in 1887-1888.  The congregation grew rapidly and the church was expanded in 1892.   Its earliest stained glass window dates from 1899 and the most modern window was installed in 1997 – 100 years of history.   Some of the windows in this church, and the stories they tell, are shown below.

below: Saint Simon and Saint Matthew, 1927, Robert McCausland Ltd., Dedicated to the memory of Augustus Perrine Burritt (1868-1925).     Traditionally, saints are portrayed with their ‘attributes’.  Here,  Simon holds a saw and Matthew holds  a purse, or bag of money.   Matthew was a tax collector before he became an apostle.  No one really knows much about Simon and there are many conflicting stories about how, when, and where he died.  One story is that he died by being sawn in two in Persia.  Whatever the history,  now if you see a painting or a statue of saint and he’s holding a long saw, then you’ll know that it’s Simon.

Augustus P. Burritt’s wife, Jean Bell Smith, outlived him by many years.  She lived until 1969.  They are buried together in Mt. Pleasant cemetery.   She is Jean B. Smith Durland on the tombstone so she must have married a second time.   I may be flying away on a tangent, but there is CWSGA (Canadian Women’s Senior Golf Association) trophy called the Jean Burritt Durland trophy.

stained glass window, two panels, one with St. Simon and the other with St. Matthew,

McCausland of Toronto is the oldest surviving stained glass studio in North America. In fact, five generations of McCauslands have overseen the work of the firm from 1856 to the present.

“Joseph McCausland, glass stainer, house, sign, and ornamental painter, established his business in 1852, and added the stained-glass works in 1857, being the first of its kind in the city.   He is now employing over fifty hands.  Mr. McCausland was born in County Armagh, Ireland, in 1829 and came to Toronto in 1836.” from
History of Toronto and County of York, Ontario vol 1, 1885. (source)  The stained-glass works mentioned here was the Canada Stained Glass Works in Toronto.  Although the bulk of McCausland’s work was for churches in the Toronto area, they made windows for churches elsewhere, for a lot of government buildings (University College, City Hall, B.C. parliament in Victoria), and for commercial buildings such as the Bank of Montreal at Yonge & Front.   In 1881, Joseph’s son Robert took over the business and it has remained in the family ever since.

below: The Dorcas window – Dorcas distributes bread to the poor, by Robert McCausland Ltd. in 1921, dedicated to the memory of Martha Bolton Wilkes (d. 1919). Dorcas (or Tabitha in Hebrew or Aramaic) was a seamstress who clothed the poor as well as fed them. After she died, a miraculous prayer by Peter the Apostle brought her back from the dead. She has become a symbol of charity.

three panel stained glass window at St. Simons church

Martha Wilkes was the wife of Robert Wilkes (1832-1880), a politician and businessman. Robert drowned at Sturgeon Point with two of his children in August 1880, Florence Alexandria (age 15) and Bertie Cooke Wilkes (age 12). The family is buried together in Mt Pleasant cemetery.

An account of the death of Robert was given in the Canadian Methodist Magazine vol 15, January to June, 1882. “The sad disaster lacked no element of the tragical and pathetic. In the month of August, 1880, Mr. Wilkes and his family were spending a few summer holidays at Sturgeon Point, a beautiful health-resort on Sturgeon Lake. On the 16th of the month, his only son and second daughter, aged, respectively thirteen and fifteen, were bathing in the lake, while their father rowed a small boat near at hand. The lad, attempting to reach his father’s boat, sank beneath the water. Mr. Wilkes plunged in to rescue him, and found himself beyond his depth. His daughter Florence, rushing to their assistance, got also beyond her depth, and thus all three perished in full view of the shore. Mrs. Wilkes who was an eye-witness of the dreadful tragedy, rushed into the water and was with difficulty prevented from losing her life in a futile attempt to save those so dear to her. Prompt efforts were made to rescue the bodies, but, alas! the spark of life had fled. Although that of Florence was still warm, yet every attempt at its resuscitation was in vain.”

 

below: There are a few other McCausland windows in St. Simons church.  This is a detail from one of them, the Te Deum window, named for the prayer that contains the words “To thee all angels cry aloud”.

close up of stained glass window, angel, cherub heads, and words that say To thee all angels

below: Saint Cecilia, by Sarah Hall, 1997.   Saint Cecilia is the patroness of musicians and she is in the center, flanked by two trumpet bearing angels.  It’s difficult to see in this photo, but under the music notes, at the very bottom of the window, are the words “From har-mo-ny from heav-nly har-mo-ny This u-ni-ver-sal frame be-gan”.  Each syllable matches a note.   They are also the first two lines in a poem written by John Dryden in 1687 called  “A Song for St. Cecilia’s Day”.

stained glass window by Sarah Hall in St. Simons church, 3 panels each with an angel

below: These windows by Gerald E. Tooke (b. 1930), four panels, each an illustration of a miracle performed by Jesus.  On the very left is the marriage at Cana where water was turned into wine.  Next is the feeding of the multitudes with bread and fish.  Second to the right is the healing of the blind man and last is the Resurrection.  These date from 1965 and are dedicated to the memory of Anna Alfreda Waller (d. 1964) and her husband (d. 1949).   [There’s a turn – usually it’s the wife whose name gets lost!].

set of four stained glass windows in deep hues of red and blue with some yellow and green, by Gerald Tooke, at St Simons church

below: Memorial to the Women of St. Simons 1883-1983, by Stephen Taylor.   Maybe you see her as a  Mother Earth figure as the root of all that grows or maybe you see her as a woman in bondage.   She almost looks like she’s bound to a cross.  The carnations above her are symbolic – according to a Christian legend, carnations grew from Mary’s tears as she watched Jesus carry the cross and, hence, they became associated with motherly love.

stained glass window by Stephen Taylor, memorial to the women of St. Simons, with a woman in the center, roots wrapped around her and greenery growing out from her,

detail of stained glass window, feet and large pink and blue flowers.

For a more complete story about stained glass and the windows of St. Simons, there is a pdf here

Comments
  1. Joanne Sisco says:

    I find photographing stained glass windows so difficult, but yours are beautiful. There is a story in each window and one could spend hours in a typical church studying its windows. It’s good to know that these stories are preserved by the church.

    I learned things here – I didn’t know about using an attribute of a saint to help identify him in a scene. I’ve certainly seen the saw in some windows and always thought it was a bit odd.
    I also didn’t know about the carnations and the link to motherly love. I’ve never been particularly fond of carnations, but maybe now I need to rethink it 🙂

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