St Patrick’s Cathedral – Melbourne, Australia

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St Patrick’s Cathedral - Melbourne, Australia

In 1848, the Augustinian friar James Goold was appointed the first bishop of Melbourne and became the fourth bishop in Australia, after Sydney, Hobart and Adelaide. Negotiations with the colonial government for the grant of five acres of land for a church in the Eastern Hill area began in 1848. On 1 April 1851, only 16 years after the foundation of Melbourne, the Colonial Secretary of Victoria finally granted the site to the Roman Catholic Church.

Goold decided to build his cathedral on the Eastern Hill site.

Since the Catholic community of Melbourne was at the time almost entirely Irish, the cathedral was dedicated to St Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland.

View of the main entrance to the cathedral

William Wardell, Melbourne's foremost ecclesiastical architect was commissioned to prepare plans for a cathedral, but the project was delayed by severe labour shortages during the Gold Rush of 1851, which drew almost every able-bodied man in the colony to the goldfields, and the foundation stone was not laid until 1858. An earlier building by stonemason David Mitchell (father of Nellie Melba and later partner of John Monash) was demolished for the cathedral. The cathedral was designed in the Gothic style of early Fourteenth Century, based on the great medieval cathedrals of England, a style at the height of its popularity in the mid 19th century. The nave exhibits 'curvilinear traceries' in the principal windows of circa 1300 to 1350s; the transepts have traceries in Geometric Decorated, a style of the immediately previous thirty years in England. The eastern arm with its chevet of chapels in the French manner is still principally in the English late Thirteenth Century style, giving the most complete essay attempted in that style during the Nineteenth Century. William Wardell was a remarkably ambitious and capable architect; he went on to design the second St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney in a similar style, even larger than St Patrick's, but with a completely English square East End.

St Patrick's Cathedral, Melbourne. The statue in the foreground is of the Irish nationalist leader Daniel O'Connell

In 1974 Pope Paul VI conferred the title and dignity of minor basilica on it. In 1986 Pope John Paul II visited the cathedral and addressed clergy during his Papal Visit.

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