St Paul’s Cathedral has been an integral part of Christian Melbourne since the city’s foundation. It is the cathedral church of the Diocese of Melbourne, the seat of the Archbishop of Melbourne, and the present seat of the Primate of Australia. It is located on the eastern corner of Swanston Street and Flinders Street. The location for the cathedral marks the place of the first Christian service held in Melbourne in 1835. Previous buildings on this site include a corn market and St Paul’s Parish Church.
In March, 1836, six months after the arrival of Faulkner and Batman, Dr Alexander Thomson arrived from Launceston with his wife and child. He was commissioned to minister to the members of Batman’s land association under the title of surgeon catechist. When he arrived, the whole land was before him. He pitched his tent under the shadow of a large gum tree at the banks of Yarra. The following Sunday he read the Church of England service to few settlers. The site of his tent and the scene of that service was the same spot the St Paul’s Cathedral was built later.
The Old St Paul’s was first build at the site of the Gum tree and for many years attracted a congregation of nearly 1000 people. A grant of land was obtained from the Crown in 1848. On portion of the site of the present Cathedral, a parish church of St Paul with School and parsonage was erected. By the 1850’s Melbourne changed from a settlement to a city and the first Bishop desired to build a Cathedral worthy of the church and the city.
A Cathedral act having been passed in 1869, it was decided by the Church assembly of Diocese of Melbourne, in 1872 that a Cathedral be erected. After Bishop Moor House arrived in Melbourne in 1877, the idea of having Cathedral was given serious thought. He said it should be a Church for the rich and poor alike and he asked the citizens of Melbourne to give him a church in which he could preach as a right. In 1877, William Butterfield an eminent English architect was commissioned to prepare plans.
The Church Foundation stone which weighed over 9 Ton was laid on 13th April 1880 by Lord Normanby in the episcopate of Dr Moorhouse. The plan of St Paul’s is Cruciform but one of the transepts is several feet shorter than its counterpart. The architecture is decorative Gothic and the external walls are of sandstone from the quarries of Barrabool and Waurn Ponds. All the wood work is in Tasmanian Blackwood. The reredos which is a representation in Venetian Glass and mosaic of the Last Supper and the Fructification framed in Alabaster. The Cathedral was without the Towers and a proposal building the towers was taken up vigorously in view of the aesthetic appeal of the Cathedral. A Committee was appointed to appeal for funds and in 1924 a competition for the design of the Western towers and spires as well as the centre spire was won by Sydney architect James Barr. The beginning of the erection of the towers and spires began on 18th April 1926. The approximate cost of building the Cathedral, the prime furniture and the towers and spires cost around £234045.
The Cathedral can hold about 1500 people in ample comfort and 2000 people without discomfort. Though the design was by the English Architect Mr Walter Butterfield, the construction was carried out by Messrs Reid and Stuart architects of Melbourne, excepting the foundation which were put in by contract.
The first Baptism in St Pauls Cathedral took place on 30th January 1891, When Herbert, Son of James and May Douglas of Burke Street was Christened by Rev, George Sutton. The first wedding was on 1st April 1891, when William Chisholm of Macquarie Street Sydney and Emma Isabell Mitchell were married off by Reverend George Oakley.
The pipe organ was commissioned from the English Builder T. C. Lewis, one of the most prominent organ builders of the 19th century. The organ which costs £6000 at the time of inception is blown by two hydraulic engines. The first organist was Mr Ernest Wood.
Extensive renovation work was carried to the exterior of the Cathedral in the 1960’s. The organ was restored in 1989.
Details about the Cathedral
Address: Flinders Ln & Swanston St, Melbourne VIC 3000
Cathedral Opening Hours:
Monday-Friday: 8.30am – 6pm
Saturday: 9am – 4pm
Sunday: 7:30am – 7:30pm
Public Holidays: 11am – 3pm