Urban Sanctuary

June has been a month of travelling for me. From the natural beauty of Vancouver to über busy and congested Metro Toronto, I’ve shifted gear and gone from park to overdrive in two short weeks. Quiet garden paths have been replaced by the 12-lane Highway 401, rain forest has turned into concrete jungle. And so I was pleasantly surprised by this serendipitous find right in the heart of downtown Toronto. Amidst the hustle and bustle, I found this sanctuary… literal and spiritual, the Trinity College Chapel on the campus of the University of Toronto:

Every step into the magnificent architecture instills awe and wonder, every artefact a symbol:

Looking back to the choir loft is another stunning view (this photo from Wikipedia):

The painting on the wall in the narthex, a crucifix, is entitled “Mediterranean Christ” by the artist Juan Sala Santonja:


Another joy of discovery is Grace Church On the Hill, Anglican. My expectation of my short sojourn in Toronto had never been stained glass or religious art. But here I was, beholding Biblical themes in beautiful stained glass:

This contemporary wall sculpture created by Catherine Widgery of Montreal juxtaposes well among the stained glass, for its message points to a similar theme:

Entitled “By Her Own Radiant Light”, John Milton’s verse is engraved on a brass plaque beside the installation:

By her own radiant light, though sun and moon

were in the flat sea sunk.

And Wisdom’s self

oft seeks to sweet retired solitude,

Where, with her best nurse


She plumes her feathers,

and lets grow her wings.

The pamphlet beside the art installation conveys the meaning: As the Moon’s illumination is the reflection of the Sun, Christian disciples are reflectors of the Greater Light. The phases of the moon suggest an eternal cycle of life, death and rebirth. Loss returns to fullness; darkness becomes light. The fragments of reflected light on water form a triangle below the full moon. Each fragment of light is a single piece of metal, cut and assembled so as to suggest the light’s effect on the surface of the water. At the heart of the circle, the light reflected on the surface is brilliant and intense, and diminishes as it spreads farther from the source.

As someone who’s always drawn to ripples, I spotted this installation right away as I entered the  sanctuary. Reading Milton’s verse and the explanation of the art work helped me gain a deeper appreciation of the visual symbolism.

No rain forests and greenery, but I was drawn to explore another landscape, one where art and imagination formed a bridge towards the unseen and spiritual, no less powerful in bringing out the wonders of creation and the Creator, the Source of Light and Wisdom.


CLICK HERE to watch a video clip with visual artist Catherine Widgery

PHOTOS: All photos were taken by Arti of Ripple Effects except the one noted from Wikipedia. Arti’s photos taken in June, 2011. All Rights Reserved.

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If she’s not birding by the Pond, Arti’s likely watching a movie, reading, or writing a review. Creator of Ripple Effects, bylines in Asian American Press, Vague Visages, Curator Magazine.

9 thoughts on “Urban Sanctuary”

  1. Arti, the chapel is tremendous. Filled with light. It must have been a welcome surprise and joy. I think this is one of the best things that can happen while traveling, finding something soulful when it isn’t expected. I could sit there for quite a while, absorbing that light.

    The moon installation by Catherine Widgery is also wonderful. Yes, I see your ripples. I also see the slivers of light, the throbbing, that I wrote of in my current poem, which is not very much about our holiday the 4th of July, but simply my reflections on the occasion of it, and I used a few words from our national anthem “The Star Spangled Banner.” It really was this sense that she and Milton are getting at, that we only have glimpses of the light, though we want it all, or at least I do.

    Happy Canada Day! I hope you get a glimpse of the radiance of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge!

    (I’m going to change the title of my poem just a bit. 😉


    1. Now I know where to find a quiet place of solitude when I go to TO next time. The Moon installation is so unique in a traditional stained glass church. You should click on the link to Catherine Widgery’s video clip. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

      Also, a look at my Avatar will explain why I spotted it right away. See the resemblance? Learning about the meaning of the wall sculpture makes an apt reminder for myself since I’ve used a similar image.


  2. Wow you really found some treasures. Your photos are beautiful. The wall sculpture is really something! Reflectors of the Greater Light…


    Thanks and now I look at my own Avatar differently.



  3. Arti,

    What a wonderful voyage of discovery! I scrolled through the images first without reading any text, and surprised myself by my reaction. Yes, the stained glass is lovely, but the soaring interior space and the Widgery installation are alive. And yes – which of your readers wouldn’t spot those ripples immediately?

    I never would have imagined that moonlight on water could be captured so perfectly on the wall of a church. Vision and skill – always the necessary combination for art, don’t you think?


    Vision and skill indeed. And a vivid example of how art can bridge the material with the spiritual. I was so thrilled to find ripples on the wall of a church, near stained glass and all… made me proud to have an avatar similar to that.

    Have a wonderful July 4th and enjoy your summer!



  4. What a beautiful place, and the moon installation is gorgeous. Well, what i really like is the combination here of modern and traditional religious art – it’s wonderful. I have relatives who live in Toronto – I’ll have to find out if they’ve been here.


    1. litlove,

      To me it’s serendipitous, but I must admit I was led to the Trinity College Chapel by my son, who’d discovered it earlier, as the UT campus will be his home for the next 3 years. The stained glass and wall installation are from another church a bit north of downtown TO, Grace Church on the Hill on Lonsdale Road.


  5. That chapel is amazing! My parents live not too far from Toronto (just across the lake) so maybe I can visit it one day.


    Yes, do bring your parents across the border to Ontario. The UT campus is right in downtown Toronto. The beautiful stained glass and the wall sculpture in Grace on the Hill, a bit north of the city centre. Well, it’s not scenic and natural as Vancouver, but Toronto has a lot to offer that Van. doesn’t.



  6. Arti, that chapel is absolutely glorious. And what a haven after the craziness of travel. I love Toronto and have been there a fair amount but never discovered this one. Next time…

    And the moon installation — beautiful and beautiful photo.


    It was my son CG who brought me to the Trinity College Chapel. He was exploring the campus he would be spending the next three year at Law School there. But still, it was a pleasant surprise for me. I’d never expected to find such a haven, as you said, right in downtown Toronto.

    Yes, love that Moon Installation, and the silvery ripples.



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