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.

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Detailed Information

Gothic Design
The great size of St Patrick's and the soaring height of its spires and ceiling are typical of the Gothic style of architecture over the period of the 12th to the 16th centuries.

A 17th century painting of  "The Finding of the Child Jesus in the temple" looks down upon the baptismal font, which is made of soapstone and features symbolic representations of the graces received through baptism. The gargoyles at the foot represent the devils cast out by baptism.

On the two pillars inside the main entrance hang paintings of St Ambrose (right) and St Augustine (left) on the Baptistry side. The nave's twelve bluestone pillars, six on either side, recall the twelve apostles and have brass plaques attached which commemorate early donors. The ends of the hammer-beam ceiling are decorated with 32 angels. The amber glass of the nave windows was imported from England.

The sanctuary, extended in 1970 and made permanent in 1997, has blue stone steps leading to a floor made of Spanish Alicante and Portuguese Rosa Aurora marble and containing four symbolic mosaics of the evangelists from the Book of Kells. The main altar, completed in early 1997, is made from Portuguese Rosa Aurora marble and has symbolic carvings of the Trinity, wheat and wine in its forefront.

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.

Memorial Tablets
Plaques commemorating Melbourne's Archbishops, James Alipius Goold (1848 - 1886), Thomas Joseph Carr (1886 - 1917), Daniel Mannix (1917 - 1963), Justin Daniel Simonds (1963 - 1967), and James Cardinal Knox (1967 - 1974), are located in the northern transept. Archbishops Mannix and Simonds and Cardinal Knox are buried in the vault beneath the floor of this transept.

Blessed Sacrament Chapel
The windows, depicting the sacrifice of Melchisedech and the Last Supper, were made in Munich for the 1881 Melbourne International Exhibition and were purchased by Archbishop Goold.

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
The brass tablets on the side walls mark the last resting places of Archbishop Goold and Dean John Fitzpatrick.

Chapel of St Joseph
The mosaics in the frontal panels depict the Betrothal of Joseph and Mary, the Holy Family and the Flight into Egypt. The view back down the Cathedral shows the beauty of the nave's timber ceiling and the Great Western Window.

Lady Chapel
The altar is made of English red and white alabaster while the statue of the Blessed Virgin, under the title of "queen of Heaven", is made of marble. The Chapel has five stained glass windows representing the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Birth of Our Lord, the Adoration of the Magi and the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple.

Chapel of St Brigid and the Irish Saints
The statue of St Brigid stands beneath a window depicting St Brigid teaching children. On either side of her windows show St Patrick receiving his mission from the Pope and landing in Ireland.

Chapel of St Thomas Aquinas
The chair, lamp and kneeler beside the altar, were used by Archbishop Mannix.

Sacred Heart Chapel
Archbishop Carr is buried beneath the pavement of this chapel. The windows show the Crucifixion and the Apparition of Our Lord to St Margaret Mary in the convent chapel in Paray-le-Monial.

The organ has 76 speaking stops involving almost 5000 pipes, 24 spanish trumpets and a four manual console. It was installed in 1962 to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the Episcopal consecration of Archbishop Mannix and was refurbished in 1996-7.

Great Western Window
The stained glass window over the main entrance represents the Ascension of Our Lord into Heaven. It was placed in position in 1867 as a memorial to Dr Geoghegan. Melbourne's first priest. This window, together with most of the windows in the Cathedral, was made by Hardman, Powell of Birmingham, England.

Main Entrance
The Gothic archway contains a bronze tracery grille featuring St6s. Patrick, Brigid and Columba. Above the grille the emblem of the Crossed Keys and Papal Tiara signify the status of the Cathedral as a Minor Basilica.

Spires, Gargoyles and Pinnacles
The main spire is surmounted by a cross six metres in height, a gift from the Irish Government in 1938. Gargoyles, a feature of Gothic Cathedrals, are meant to protect the building from evil spirits and serve as water spouts. The pinnacles point skywards, reminders of eternity and heaven.

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St Patrick's Cathedral


St Augustine


Altar detail of the Blessed Sacrament Chapel


New Sanctuary


The new organ at St Patrick's Cathedral as depicted in "The Australasian Sketcher", March 27, 1880.


The Cathedral Organ in 1997