Exploring a lesser known abandoned building in the Toronto area
Last weekend we were meant to go on a 3 hour snowmobiling experience to celebrate my birthday. Unfortunately, we got a call in the morning to say that one of the two key ingredients was missing. Whilst the snowmobiles were ready to go, sadly there wasn’t enough snow for them to do their thing.
With a Zipcar booked for the day, I looked into cancelling it. Unfortunately, I was just the 23 hours and 30 minutes too late to cancel the car without having to pay the full day’s rate. The only thing we would have saved by cancelling was the tax.
So screw that, we might as well keep the car and take it on a trip somewhere. We consulted our bucket list, and found two places near Toronto that we needed a car to get to, but ordinarily probably would have lacked the impetus to visit.
Last year, on our way back from the Maple Syrup Festival in Stouffville, we were driving down the 404 approaching Markham when we saw this ‘thing’ towering above its surroundings. It looked like a church or something, but what the hell was it doing all the way out here? We did some research when we got home, and found that it was the Cathedral of the Transfiguration, and it counts as surely the most bizarre landmark in the Greater Toronto Area.
Ever since, it’s been somewhere that we’ve wanted to return to for a closer look, and now here we finally were, parking up in a housing development with its own giant cathedral.
So why is this place so interesting? The cathedral was built to serve Slovak Catholics in the Greater Toronto Area, and work started in 1984. Actually, construction still hasn’t finished, and if you look closely you can spot a few places which look like they need a window or clock. But, due to disputes and religious politics, the cathedral closed down in 2006, and so it’s been sitting there empty for 10 years (yes, 2006 really is 10 years ago, where did that time go!?).
When construction started in 1984, the cathedral was completely isolated. Not until 2004, when the construction of the surrounding residential Cathedraltown started, did the cathedral gain any neighbours. When we visited, Cathedraltown was eerily quiet. It felt like a movie set, or as if we were in the Truman Show, and that everyone was waiting for a director to shout “action!”, and they’d pop out from the facades of fake buildings and the place would come alive!
But these residences are dwarfed by the cathedral. It is genuinely huge. Its main tower stands at 63 metres, the equivalent of a 20 storey building. It can hold a 1,000-1,200 strong congregation. Its three-bell carillon, weighing more than 18 tonnes, is the largest in the world. Its size is just emphasized by how there is nothing of comparative size around it. Normally big buildings are accompanied by other big buildings, or at least busy city life. This building is surrounded by a buffer of wasteland before the low-lying houses start.
It just sits there, looking lonely and sad that no one uses it anymore. It’s abandoned, but its 22-carat gold coated onion-domes sit there atop the giant towers looking immaculate. It’s like a haunted, abandoned house, trying to lure you into a sticky end.
This place is as equally fascinating as it is sinister and threatening. We drove away from the cathedral, and there it was looming in the car’s mirrors like a we were being chased down by a movie monster! You drive around the residential area, and there it is, its towers suddenly appearing over the tops of the houses like an alien spaceship has landed in suburbia. That’s how out of place it looks.
So if you are in the area, we wholeheartedly recommend that you take a detour to check this place out. You won’t be disappointed.