May 18th, 2022
Classical Architectural Styles Displayed by Church Buildings in the Beaches

Classical Architectural Styles Displayed by Church Buildings in the Beaches

Q2. Name two classic styles of church architecture found in the Beaches?
Q6. Why is the detailing so much simpler on St. John’s Catholic Church than Kingston Road United?

Take a Sunday stroll and experience that small town feeling while taking in some Roman and Gothic Revival styles of the local churches.

Each time you stroll about the Beaches you may notice that the tallest structures are church buildings displaying their marvellous architecture against a clear blue sky. Some are ornate, several feel quite massive, others understated. Church buildings in the Beaches are not that large or striking compared to some of the magnificent church buildings downtown, but with our small town feel, without high rises, they distinguish themselves as the tallest in the neighbourhood. Often they are used as cell phone towers. You may even notice transmitter towers on some!

Most churches we see in Europe and Britain are classic examples of Roman or Gothic architecture. Architects were inspired by such classics and in the late 1800s developed the Gothic Revival and Romanesque Revival styles of architecture. In Canada, such styles retained a strong foothold on church architecture well into the 1950’s. Many of the churches in the Beaches display some classical details of Gothic and Romanesque Revival, particularly in their window and entry design.


St. John’s Catholic Church (built 1931) 794 Kingston Rd

Form is perhaps the single most important design aspect of classic church architecture. Look at Corpus Christi, a Romanesque Revival church. It is somewhat squat and the linear elements of its façade emphasize the horizontal. The other three churches shown in the pictures are typical Gothic Revival design. Their worship spaces are relatively narrow and high, symbolic of reaching to God. On the exterior, the alignment of the doors and windows also emphasize the vertical, in addition to vertical lines, created through stepped surfaces or buttresses.

All four churches have interior clerestory walls and side aisles. Clerestory walls, supported on columns, emphasize the verticality of the space and also let in daylight. Side aisles ease movement throughout and provide daylight to the outer areas. Kingston Road United is the only church designed in a traditional cruciform shape. Builders traditionally added such transepts to support a central cupola or tower, but typical of Revival style, such elements were not added to this building.

Corpus Christi Roman Catholic Church (built 1926) 16 Lockwood Road Kingston Road United Church (built 1925) 975 Kingston Road Calvary Baptist Church (built 1952) 72 Main Street


The shape of the arch over openings is a defining architectural detail. In Romanesque architecture, the arch is semi-circular, in Gothic it is pointed. Typical of Romanesque Revival style, Corpus Christi has a massive arch enclosing the entrance. Kingston Rd, St. John’s and Calvary are Gothic Revival. They have similar entrance façades with arched openings for the doors and windows. Their surrounding wall treatment emphasizes the verticality of the building design.


The details on the exterior of these four churches are notably striking. Most attention has been paid to the entry façade. Look at them closely next time you walk by because each is unique.

Corpus Christi Catholic is the oldest, built in 1926. Its massive Romanesque Revival stone arch gives way to patterned stone detail above a pair of smaller arches. The semicircular arches above the square topped doors are plain stone punched by a circular window. The detailing in those Windows is repeated in the lower windows. Masonry detailing above the entry tends to be sparse.

Kingston Road United was constructed just after 1925 when Methodist and many Presbyterian churches joined to form The United Church of Canada. Built before the 1929 Depression, its Gothic Revival detailing is the most elaborate of the four. Considerable carved stone detailing is used throughout the façade. Once again, the overall effect of the design enhances its verticality.

St. John’s Catholic was constructed in the midst of the Depression (1931). Its detailing, therefore, is simpler yet interesting. Wood tracery of the window infilling the doorway arch is matched in the stone tracery of the window above. Buttresses frame the entrance but they rise only part way up the façade wall. Capping that wall face is a set of carved stone panels with the centre panel being, presumably, of St. John. The foreshortened buttresses and this set of panels minimize the verticality of the wall.

Calvary Baptist (1952) reflects late Gothic Revival design, particularly in its entry. The doorway is set in the base of the tower and framed by a carved stone gable. Below, entry doors are set in an arched opening. Rising from the peak of the gable is a narrow set of arched windows surmounted by arched craved stone panels, further surmounted by an arched louvered opening. Such detailing provides a strong vertical element.

Although many of the churches contain Revival details, the four noted here are truer Revival designed churches. We know that next time you are walking in the neighbourhood, you will appreciate these classic architectural styles — styles that have spanned continents, endured for centuries, and continue to inspire and enhance our neighbourhood.

The Beaches offers one of the best places to get an introduction to church architecture Refresh your knowledge before you take a trip to Europe or Britain, or reminisce on your past vacation as you walk about the neighbourhood.

Information in this article is provide by Bill Menzel of BB&R Architect Inc.

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