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Fire Engulfs Historic Canadian Church

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St. Anne’s Anglican Church, a historic church in Toronto, Canada, was decimated in a vicious inferno.

According to the CBC, the national historic site in the city’s Little Portugal neighborhood, was “completely destroyed,” along with artifacts stored inside the building.

The church “contained murals painted by three members of the Group of Seven,” Global News stated.

Per CBC:

The church, built in 1907-1908 in the city’s Little Portugal neighbourhood, houses early paintings by three Group of Seven artists that were installed in the church in the 1920s. The murals decorated the chancel and the dome, which was destroyed by the blaze.

Beyers said the “invaluable” works were lost to the flames.

“The artwork was priceless. It was murals, beautiful murals,” he said. “They were stunning.

“This was the only church that featured artwork by members of the Group of Seven. And I’m sorry to say that’s been lost, from what I can see.”

The church was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1996. In 1980, the City of Toronto also designated the church under the Ontario Heritage Act.

The St. Anne’s website said the church in 1923 commissioned founding Group of Seven member J.E.H. MacDonald to oversee designs depicting the life of Christ on the building’s interior. MacDonald then signed on nine other artists, including Franklin Carmichael and Frederick Varley.

Toronto Fire Services spokesperson Deepak Chagger confirmed the loss, saying there’s no indication that anything was saved at this point.

The Ontario Fire Marshal and Toronto police are expected to investigate the blaze.

“This is a devastating loss for the community,” Deputy Fire Chief Jim Jessop told reporters.

“Upon arrival, our crews were met with heavy flame and smoke,” Jessop said.

“The fire was immediately escalated to a second, then a third, and we reached our maximum at a fourth alarm,” he added.

WATCH:

Global News reports:

He said the Anglican church will look to continue to serve the area.

“We will rise from this,” he said. “We will come back stronger and we have every intention of continuing to serve this great community.”

The three members of the Group of 7 — J.E.H. MacDonald, Fred Varley and Frank Carmichael — were part of a group that were commissioned to paint and decorate the church.

Bobby Diaz, who lives across the street from the church, told Global News that he woke up to a smoke-filled apartment on Sunday morning.

“At first I thought it was from the festival, but then the whole apartment was filled,” he said. “And then I stepped out to our main west facing window and saw the whole entire church starting to burn.”

Diaz said he visited the church last year and admired the artwork that had been done by prominent Canadian painters.

“To see such a beautiful building like this, it’s really heartbreaking to see it burn down,” he said.

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