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What is a 'Cathedral Cross'?

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The term 'Cathedral Cross' has been used when referring to a war memorial that has been erected by a religious institution, characteristically by a cathedral church, and is not necessarily in the form of a cross. As illustrated in the photograph, the Cathedral Church of St. James (Anglican), located in downtown Toronto, Ontario, had commissioned Henry Sproatt (14 June 1866 – 4 October 1934) to erect a war memorial in the park surrounding the Cathedral. Sproatt trained in Europe and in New York, and in 1899 formed Sproatt & Rolph – a partnership with Ernest Ross Rolph (21 January 1871 – 4 May 1958) in which they successfully collaborated on some of the most renowned landmarks of Canadian architecture for a period of 34 years, including this distinctive shrine of remembrance. Named by Sproatt, its architect, as the 'St. James' Cathedral Cross', this "preaching cross" was erected just in time for the Cathedral's 1924 Remembrance Day services in memory of the parishioners who died during the First World War. Instead of using the popular 'Cross of Sacrifice' that was designed in 1917 by Reginald Blomfield – one of the principal architects of the Imperial War Graves Commission – Sproatt favoured the Cathedral's existing Gothic Revival style of architecture to be applied to the war memorial. The Cathedral Cross consists of a four sided arch featuring a centre steeple with a cross finial at the top and on the façades of its base is inscribed the 48 names of the men from the Cathedral's Roll of Honours as well as a general tribute in their honour: "THIS CROSS COMMEMORATES THE GLORIOUS SACRIFICE OF THOSE WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES IN THE GREAT WAR 1914 - 1918 AND APPEALS TO THOSE FOR WHOM THEY DIED TO LAY ASIDE HATRED AND STRIFE AND TO SEEK BROTHERHOOD AND PEACE UNDER THE BANNER OF CHRIST." Traditional Remembrance observances continue to be held at St. James’ Cathedral, including military representation at the service that feature prayers and readings that reflect on the themes of peace and honouring the dead, the ringing of the bells (half-muffled), the laying of wreaths at the Cathedral Cross and a March Past that takes place following the service.

On this day, 11 November 2021, we remember and honour all those who served and continue to serve our country during times of war, conflict and peace and mark the 97th anniversary of the erection of the St. James' Cathedral Cross in Toronto, Ontario.

André M. Levesque

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