St. Patrick's Cathedral
St Patrick's Cathedral is the mother church of the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne. It is the largest church in Australia. The Centenary of its official opening and Consecration was marked in 1997; however, the first Mass was celebrated on the site in February 1858 in a former partially completed church, some of which was incorporated into the south aisle of the present building; by 1868, the completed nave of the Cathedral first served the needs of the community for regular worship and prayer.
Designed by William Wardell, St Patrick's is regarded internationally as the finest ecclesiastical building in Australia and a pre-eminent example of the Gothic Revival style. The austere facade gives little hint of the glorious interior with its ethereal golden light of mesmerizing beauty.
The Cathedral's highly regarded organ and exceptional acoustics ensure its popularity with leading musicians and choral groups, as a favored setting for concerts of sacred music. The splendid ambulatory and chapels which partially encircle the sanctuary, provide space for occasional exhibitions.
St. Patrick's was closely associated with immigrants from Ireland escaping the mid-19th-century potato famine. In the courtyard out front is a statue of the Irish patriot Daniel O'Connell.
On 9 April 1850, Melbourne's first Catholic bishop, James Goold, laid the foundation stone of the first church on the present site of St Patrick's Cathedral. The land had previously been a sheep run.
When Melbourne's population began to increase rapidly due to the gold rushes, the Bishop decided to pull down the partly finished St Patrick's Church and build a bigger one in bluestone. The first section of this church was blessed on 15 February 1858. In that year Bishop Goold conceived the idea of a grand cathedral worthy of Melbourne's growing importance, and commissioned newly arrived William Wilkinson Wardell, a leader of the English Gothic Revival movement in architecture, to design a cathedral on Eastern Hill.
Bishop Goold instructed Wardell to incorporate in his design of the new cathedral the south aisle, which was the only part of the existing church that was completed. Dr John Fitzpatrick, dean of the cathedral from 1858 to 1886, did much of the subsequent supervisory and fund-raising work.
After Goold's death in 1886, his successor, Archbishop Carr, completed the cathedral (except for the spires, which were added between 1937 and 1939). At the time of its consecration on 27 October 1897, the cathedral had cost 200,000 pounds.
The sanctuary was extended by Archbishop Knox in 1970 and four years later Pope Paul VI conferred on the cathedral the title and dignity of Minor Basilica.
In December 1988, the refurbished cathedral bells were blessed by Archbishop Little. Four years later, in 1992, Archbishop Little inaugurated major restoration and conservation works in preparation for the cathedral's centenary in 1997. The completion of these works was marked by a ceremony in the cathedral on 16 March 1997, presided over by Archbishop Pell, at which the new sanctuary was blessed and the alter unveiled.
The rear sanctuary floor with its mosaic tiles of the highest quality leads to the high altar which is made of Spanish Emperor Red marble and has columns of Irish green marble. The tabernacle frame is made of the finest Devonshire alabaster.
The mosaic in the chapels and in the rear sanctuary were made in Venice. Those in the main sanctuary came from England.
Holy Souls Chapel
Chapel of St Joseph
Chapel of St Brigid
and the Irish Saints
Chapel of St Thomas
Sacred Heart Chapel
The new organ at St Patrick's Cathedral as depicted in "The Australasian Sketcher", March 27, 1880.
The Cathedral Organ in 1997