The Congregation of St. Basil (Basilian Fathers) was established as a religious congregation in France in 1822. As a result of the closing of seminaries in France during the French Revolution, two diocesan priests opened a secret school in the mountains of central France.
After several years of operation and a change in the French laws, ten priests serving there openly bound themselves into a religious community. They reasoned that the school, by then located in the nearby city of Annonay, would have a better chance of continuing if it were conducted by a Religious Congregation that could accept and train new members to continue its operation after the founding fathers’ retirement.
The original members chose St. Basil the Great, a fourth century teacher, bishop, and doctor of the Church, to be the namesake of the new community.
In the middle of the nineteenth century, the French Basilians came to Canada on an invitation from Bishop de Charbonnel of Toronto. The Bishop clearly saw the need for Catholic schools for the young people of his parishes, especially at the high school level. In his plans to bring Catholic education to more of his people, the Bishop immediately thought of his own education in France. He had been educated at the College of Annonay near Lyon, a school established by the Basilian Fathers. In September of 1852, the Basilians opened St. Michael’s College in Toronto, offering in the French style a combination of what we would call high school and university education.
St. Michael’s College quickly outgrew its original facilities in the basement of the Bishop’s Palace on Church Street, and in 1856, it was moved to Clover Hill, a property donated to the Basilian Fathers by the Honourable John Elmsley. Clover Hill was outside the city at that time, in an area now bounded by Bay, St. Joseph, and St. Mary’s Streets. In 1881, St. Michael’s was affiliated with St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto for post-secondary education. The high school section expanded much more rapidly than the College section, so in 1902, a new wing was added to the original building and the high school remained in this building until 1950.
During the Great Depression, the Superior of the Basilians, Fr. Henry Bellisle, slashed tuition and established two satellite campuses to preserve enrolment. Both campuses accepted Grade 9 students in September 1932. The East End Campus was on Lee Avenue in the Beaches area and the West End Campus was on the St. Joan of Arc Church property at Dundas Street West at Bloor Street West. The western school closed after June 1936, and the eastern campus lasted one more year.
In the years after WWII, it became apparent that the Bay Street buildings were not equal to the challenge of serving a growing student body. At this point the high school section was separated from the College, and in September 1950, St. Michael’s College School opened its doors in a new building at Bathurst Street and St. Clair Avenue West, where it is situated today.
In 1967, St. Michael’s College School began an important new phase in its history. A decision was made to enter into partnership with the Metropolitan Separate School Board of Toronto and to educate the Board’s students in grades 9 and 10. This decision made St. Michael’s both a public and private school, which lasted for approximately 20 years. In September 1985, the Basilian Fathers decided to refuse provincial aid and return St. Michael’s to its Catholic roots as a fully independent, Catholic high school.
In 1995, a major capital expansion programme upgraded the school to include a new east wing complete with modern classrooms, a new library, music and visual arts facilities, a design and technology facility, a new 250-seat lecture hall, and an expanded gymnasium. In September 1998, St. Michael’s College School expanded its academic programme to include a grade 7-8 programme. The Preparatory school was previously active during the early 1900s.
The school's athletic stadium was retrofitted in September 2004 to include a new, state-of-the-art athletic field with artificial turf, an electronic scoreboard, stadium lighting, and an air supported structure that covers a third of the field for use during the winter months.
The Centre for the Arts was the fourth and final phase of the St. Michael's College School revitalization project that commenced in 1995. The Centre is a state-of-the-art facility that provides much-needed space and resources for teaching and learning. The Centre has 440 seats presented in an intimate setting facing the Fr. Thomas F. Mohan c.s.b. Stage.
Today, St. Michael’s, at its current location, continues the Basilian Fathers’ tradition of excellence.