40 Russel Street East, Lindsay, Ontario
Parish Topics

Guide to the Interior Designs and Paintings

An Abridged guide to the interior designs and paintings of St. Mary’s Church, Lindsay

Over several decades, St. Mary’s church which was built in 1858, has undergone a series of renovations, each proving to enhance the interior of the church to be even more liturgically appealing than the last. We are privileged to be the current custodians of this century-plus Heritage Building of worship.

Brief Points of History:

  • The Church was built in 1858
  • Renovated and expanded to its current size in 1894. Three bells were put into the tower. The galleries round the upper part of the church were all taken out. A careful observation shows that the two windows closest to the sanctuary on both sides are not exactly the same size as the rest of the windows. This was due to the removal of the gallery.
  • The church was almost totally destroyed by fire on the 21st of December 1908. That next year, it was redone similar to the way it looks now.
  • The paintings on the ceiling were last restored in 1909
  • The first painting of the outside walls was done in 1911
  • In 1913, the pipe organ was installed
  • The side altars were brought from the Cathedral in Peterborough
  • In 1927, the sanctuary was enlarged to its current size
  • The High Altar was donated in 1933 and more windows were also added to the sides of the church.
  • A very extensive renovation of the church took place from 1957 to 1958 in time for the centennial. A side boiler room was added, as well as extra canvases of the Purification and Presentation and murals. It was also repainted once more.
  • The altar rails were taken out in 1970 and the altar of sacrifice moved to the front of the sanctuary.
  • A new side entrance and washroom was added in 1980.
  • The cloth canvases on which the apostles have been painted on the ceiling were imported from Dingwall, Rosshire, Scotland in 1909.

Worthy of note on the inside:

  • The west side of the church is the Christological side, featuring paintings and stained glass that primarily highlight the person of Jesus Christ.
  • The east side is the Marian side, with paintings and stained glass that focus on Mary.
  • The entire artwork of the church’s interior is linked and biblically themed. Looking closely at the artistry, one will notice that the upper friezes of the wall and the lower friezes bear the semblance of a vine wrapping itself around and spreading throughout the church. On the upper friezes is the Marian lily. Up on the ceiling is the IHS (Greek) for Jesus and The AM the crowned Ave Maria for Mary. symbolism is of Jesus the true vine spreading and giving life to all of humanity (Jn. 15:5)
  • There are circles that intersperse the upper friezes near the pillars. Inside the circles are the Triangular symbol of the Most Holy Trinity, the Alpha and Omega for Christ and the M for Mary.
  • The greater symbolism seen in the totality of the paintings and stained glass is the salvific suffering of Jesus, which through the intercession of Mary, will bring us to the glories of heaven, where we are all currently represented by the twelve apostles as written in the book of revelation (21:14), that “The wall of the city had twelve foundations bearing the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.”
  • The colors behind the apostles represents the precious stones described in Rev. 21:19-20 “the foundations of the city wall were decorated with every precious stone…..”

Tour the Church:

  • The altar of sacrifice features the scene of Da Vinci’s Last Supper. Once more, the imagery of the vine and its branches frames and runs along the borders of the front of the altar.
  • Up on the high altar, the tabernacle which was once moved to the side is centered once more, and has the Christological logo IHS, the Greek monogram for Jesus.
  • Immediately above the tabernacle are the Madonna and the child Jesus with the globe signifying the world. It is accentuated with a beautiful gold background.
  • The entrance door on the west side is of the Immaculate Heart of Mary pierced with a sword as Simeon predicted in the gospel (Lk. 2:35). The door on the east side is of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. These symbols are also repeated in the stained glass windows above the choir loft.
  • Behind the high altar, the painting of the scene on Calvary is rich in symbolism:
  • There is of course the center piece which is of Jesus who had given up his spirit, leaning towards his mother. There is a skull at the base of the cross recalling Adam through whom death came to humanity and also the place of the crucifixion was known as Golgotha “the place of skulls.” It is the bridge between the Old Testament and the New Testament.
  • Mary the mother of Jesus is standing there in prayerful posture with Mary Magdalene beside her. At the feet of Mary Magdalene is a jar of myrrh for the anointing of Jesus’ body, which was what she went to do when she was discovered that he had risen (Jn. 20:1-18). They are both known as THE SILENT WITNESSES.
  • A little farther behind them is the tomb where Jesus will be buried.
  • On the other side of the cross is John the evangelist who was the only disciple to witness the crucifixion and write about it firsthand (Jn. 19:35). Beside him is the centurion who pierced Jesus’ side with his spear (see the red at the tip) and proclaimed loudly, “truly this man was the son of God” (Mk. 15:39). He and John are both called THE SPEAKING WITNESSES.
  • The stencils on the front wall are a combination of the Mystical Rose and the Morning Star (a title of Christ).
  • To the left of the painting is St. Anne tutoring the Virgin Mary as a child.
  • Above that is a painting of the Purification with St. Joseph accepting the role of Jesus’ foster father, with Mary and the prophetess Anna looking on.
  • A little farther to the left is a side altar. The statues above it recall the Sacred Heart of Jesus being revealed to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque.
  • The stained glass windows on the left side of the sanctuary are scenes of the Nativity on one side, and the Presentation of the child Jesus in the temple on the other side. Simeon and Anna can be seen depicted there. They were the ones who received the child Jesus when he was presented for purification as was the Jewish custom (Lk. 2:22-38).
  • In-between the curve of the two windows is a painting of the Victorious Lamb of God standing on the book with the seven seals that he alone can open (Rev. 5:1-10).
  • The ceiling is painted with the intricate design of the Mystical Rose, one of the titles of Mary from the litany of Loretto. We see this symbol repeated throughout the church.
  • To the right of the high altar is a statue of St. Joseph the worker.
  • Above the statue is the Presentation of the child Jesus in the temple. Joseph has the two turtle doves as required by Jewish tradition, and the prophet Simeon has the child while his mother Mary looks on (Lk. 2:22-32).
  • A little farther to the right side of the sanctuary is another side altar. Above this one are the statues of Our Lady of Lourdes in the grotto with Bernadette Soubirous, where Mary revealed herself as the Immaculate Conception.
  • The stained glass windows on this side of sanctuary depict (a) Jesus teaching in the temple as a child when he got lost in Jerusalem (Lk. 2: 41-50) and (b) the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
  • In between the crevice of the arches is a picture of a pelican feeding her young with her blood, symbolic of Jesus feeding us spiritually with his blood shed on the cross.
  • The ceiling in the center of the sanctuary has, from the east side, (a) a painting of the coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Heaven, (b) St. Mark the evangelist, with his symbol of the winged lion at that base of his chair and (c)
  • On the west side of the sanctuary ceiling is Our Lady of the Rosary with angels bringing the three symbols of the mysteries of the Rosary: Lilies for the Joyful, the crown of thorns for the sorrowful and a crown for the glorious mystery. And also St. Luke the evangelist with his symbol of the winged ox. Though it may not be visible, Mary is holding a rosary in her hand.
  • The sanctuary and the main body of the church are artistically divided on both sides of the wall by two winged angels with scrolls. On the right is the scroll with the inscription “Floretes Flores Quasi Lilium” which means “Let the flowers blossom like the lilies.” And the inscription on the scroll of the angel on the left side reads “Regina Mundi Dignissima” which translates “Most worthy queen of the world.”
  • Above the altar of sacrifice is the Tabernacle Lamp obtained in the 1880s.

The Main Body of the Church (The Nave)

  • The East Side of the church which is the Marian side, has on the first window, a picture of St. Paul (beheaded with the sword) and St. Peter (the keeper of the keys). Directly above it is a Marian symbol, an M & R merged together. It means “Maria Regina” which translates “Queen Mary.”
  • Below this window on the lower frieze is a painted medallion of Jesus’ tomb and the jar of myrrh for the anointing of his body. Myrrh was the gift that one of the Three Magi gave to Jesus at his birth (Matt. 2:11).
  • The ceiling above shows St. Matthew the apostle who used to be a tax collector. The bag of money in the symbol below the painting of the apostle represents that.
  • The second window shows St. Dominic receiving the rosary from our Blessed Mother Mary in 1208. The angels have the banners saying “The virgin conceived. She went to visit her cousin Elizabeth.” The little curve above it is the M for Mary and the crown of her queenship. The frieze medallion below is of the instruments for taking down Jesus’ body from the cross: the ladder and the rope.
  • The ceiling above once more shows St. Peter holding the keys. And his symbol below shows the keys.
  • The third window is of the scene of The Annunciation: the archangel Gabriel and Mary are shown there (Lk.1:26-38). The little curve above is of the Chalice and the Host, signifying the body and blood that Jesus took from Mary at the Incarnation. The frieze medallion below it is the inscription Pilate had the soldiers fix to the top of Jesus’ cross INRI (Jesus Nazarenus Rex Judeaorum) meaning “Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews” (Jn.19:19).
  • On the ceiling above is a painting of St. Andrew, Peter’s brother. He was also crucified on the Saltire or X-shaped cross as depicted in the symbol.
  • The fourth window is of the 1917 Marian apparition to Lucia, Fransisco and Jacinta in Fatima. This year 2017 marks 100 years of that apparition. Below that is a small painting of the children with an angel who also appeared to them. The frieze medallion is of the meeting of Jesus and Mary on the way to Calvary as the two hearts show.
  • The ceiling above shows a painting of St. James the Less who gave a speech at the First Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15: 19-21). He was beaten to death with a club as shown in the smaller canvas. There were two apostles named James. One is called the less and the other the great, purely for the role that “James the great” played in being part of Jesus’ inner circle.
  • The fifth shows The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven. The frieze medallion is of the Menorah, the seven pronged candle stick which typically symbolizes the temple in Jerusalem. It recalls the loss of the child Jesus in the temple (Lk.2:43-45).
  • The ceiling above is a painting of St. Bartholomew. The knife in the symbol tells that he was flayed while still alive.
  • The frieze medallion just beside the confessional is of the Egyptian Sphinx, and it stands for the flight of the Holy Family into Egypt (Matt.2: 13-14).
  • On the other side of the confessional, close to the stairwell is another frieze medallion of the Immaculate Heart of Mary pierced with a sword of sorrow as Simeon predicted in the gospel of Luke, 2:34-35.
  • The last painting on the ceiling on this side is of St. Simon the Zealot. He was hacked to death with a saw as the symbol shows.
  • The little painting on the ceiling in the choir loft is of the palms and the crown signifying the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem which is always celebrated on Palm Sunday with hymns (Mk.11:1-11).
  • This side also has the first seven Stations of the Cross.
  • The two confessionals at the back of the church both have the face-to-face option and the screened partition, depending on the choice of the penitent. There is also the symbol of the keys in the middle, signifying the authority from which the sacrament takes its roots.
  • The pipe organ in the choir loft is over a hundred years old. It was installed in 1913 and has been serving ever since.
  • In-between the two confessionals, in the middle of the floor is a beautiful monogram with the symbol MR, Maria Regina, “Queen Mary.”
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  • The West Side of the church is the Christological side.
  • The first window closest to the sanctuary is of Joseph and Mary, the parents of Jesus. Above it is depicted the Blessed Sacrament in a Monstrance. The frieze medallion below is the purple cloak that was draped over Jesus by the soldiers in mockery (Mk. 15:17).
  • The painting in the ceiling above is that of St. John the brother of James. His mythological symbol, the eagle, is at the foot of his chair. The chalice in the small painting tells the story of how they attempted to poison his drink and when he blessed it, snakes came out of the cup.
  • Below the window is the marble baptistry which has been here since the 1880s.
  • The second stained glass window is of the Agony in the garden of Gethsemane (Mk.14:32-42). The disciples can be seen asleep in the background, while Jesus symbolically receives the cup of suffering from an angel.
  • The picture above it is of the crown of glory which was won by his suffering on the cross. The frieze medallion below is of Jesus’ seamless garment which the soldiers gambled for ownership by throwing dice after they crucified him (Jn. 19:23-24). The dice are depicted on the garment.
  • The painting on the ceiling above is that of St. James the Greater was the first of the apostles to be martyred (Acts 12:1-2). His symbol is the sea shell, the tradition symbol of a pilgrim.
  • The third window is of the crucifixion. Two little windows below it show the Last Supper and a priest at Mass, re-enacting the suffering on the cross. The little window above is the depiction of the Victorious Lamb of God. The frieze medallion below shows the jug of bitter wine and the reed with which the soldiers offered Jesus the gall while he hung on the cross (Matt 27:48).
  • The painting above is that of St. Thomas. He can be seen holding the square which has come to be his symbol because he was a builder.
  • The fourth window is of Pentecost Sunday. Below it is a small painting of Jesus at baptism, and to the right, a bishop at confirmation. The Holy Spirit in the form of a dove is shown in the little painting above. The frieze medallion shows Veronica’s veil with which she wiped the face of Jesus.
  • The ceiling above has a painting of St. Matthias who replaced Judas in the college of apostles. His symbol is the orthodox cross.
  • The fifth window is of Christ the Universal King. The solemnity is celebrated on the last Sunday of each liturgical year. The frieze medallion shows the spear with which the soldier pierced Jesus’ side on the cross (Jn.19:33). This is a unique window in Canada: it shows the Parliament building at the feet of Christ. And it also shows an original mill that was one of the earliest in Lindsay which was called Purdy’s Mill (the original name of the city of Lindsay).
  • The ceiling above has the painting of St. Jude. He was martyred and his head broken with an axe, hence the picture of the axe in the small painting.
  • The last painting on the ceiling is of St. Phillip. He was the one with whom Jesus opened the discussion about feeding the multitude which eventually led to the child coming forward with five loaves and two fishes, and the feeding of the five thousand (Jn. 6:1-12).
  • The frieze medallion on this side of the confessional is of the crown of thorns and on the other side, is another medallion of the scourging at the pillar (Mk.15:15-20). The whip and the pillar are visible there.
  • The Christological side of the church also holds the 7th to the 14th Stations of the Cross.
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