Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Hyde Park - St Marys Cathedral then


What we have in Sydney today, IMO the grandest church in our City, is the third attempt to construct a home for the city's catholic faithful. Although Australia was conquered, and settled, by Britain in 1788, the foundation stone for the first catholic church was not laid until 1821. Britain was wary of the catholics in the First Fleet as they were overwhelmingly Irish, and had been sent to the ends of the earth for political insurrections. For the first 25 years of the colony, catholics met covertly.

Left: Sketch by John Rae, 1840 Right: Sketch by John Rae (1840-1850
Both inages courtesy Dictionary of Sydney

Governor Lachlan Macquarie laid the foundation stone for the first St Marys, in October 1821. This was on the same site as the current Cathedral. It ran east-to-west (whereas the current cathedral runs north-to-south). At the same time, Macquarie was involved with the Anglicans. The Church of England was the "established" church and had a life of its own in the colony. However, its cathedral (St Andrews) got off to a spluttery start, with the first foundation stone laid in 1819, the second in 1837, before being consecrated in 1868.

Left: After the fire Right: After the fire, c. 1870
Both images courtesy Dictionary of Sydney


After a range of alterations, this Macquarie-inspired catholic cathedral was badly-damaged by fire in November, 1865. They rebuilt in stages, with the first service being held in 1882, with more construction work being completed in 1900, 1928, and even as recently as 2000, when the two spires in the original plans, were added. Embiggen the old image on the left to see, that even then, those with drug-addictions made their home in Hyde Park.

There is only a miniscule portion remaining of the cathedral that burnt. This is around the back (east) of the cathedral but easily accessible by the public. There is a plaque on this ruin which reads:
This pillar is all that remains of the original St Mary's Chapel, the Foundation Stone of which was laid by Governor Lachlan Macquarie on 29 October, 1821. Father John Joseph Therry celebrated the first Mass in the partly completed chapel on 5 December, 1833.


This is the southern forecourt of St Marys. It used to be a lawn bowling club at which my father played. It is now a concrete park with a swimming pool and fitness centre below. At my back as I took this phtotgraph is The Australian Museum, which I will cover next week.


8 comments:

Luis Gomez said...

Julie, thank you for such a wonderful post. I used to walk around Saint Mary 's Cathedral photographing and admiring it.

Chrissy Brand said...

A fascinating little lesson.

Jo said...

What an interesting post with extra special angles on your images. Thanks for sharing. JO

Tahiti Daily Photo said...

Really a wonderful cathedral.

William Kendall said...

Saving that remnant was a very good idea. The burn marks give it a certain poignancy. The cathedral in its current form is stunning!

Joe said...

St Andrews sure had a long wait from the laying of the foundation stone to consecration Julie.

Joan Elizabeth said...

Your images do such justice to the lovely honey coloured sandstone.

freefalling said...

I embiggened that photo and saw the bloke 'having a kip'. What do you reckon that little fenced area is, that he is leaning against? A grave?