St Mary’s Cathedral
The world’s largest 19th-century ecclesiastical building in the English Gothic architectural style
About the building
St Mary’s Cathedral stands on the site of the first Catholic chapel in Australia and is the largest 19th-century ecclesiastical building in the English Gothic architectural style in the world. Constructed with local sandstone, the decorative Gothic Revival–style building is reminiscent of the great medieval cathedrals of Europe. The cathedral is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, under the title of Immaculate Mother of God, Help of Christians.
Architect William Wilkinson Wardell was commissioned by Archbishop Polding to design a new St Mary’s Cathedral following the fire of 1865 that ruined the original cathedral. The foundation stone was laid in 1868, and the cathedral opened in 1882, despite not being finished until 1928.
Elaborately ornamented, St Mary’s is designed principally in the geometric decorated style of Gothic that evolved around the 13th century. It is not a copy of a particular medieval cathedral but is a unique design that draws on certain elements of its medieval forebears. St Mary’s stretches 107 metres in length and the central tower rises 46 metres.
In 1993 the Government Architect office was commissioned by the cathedral to investigate and recommend future maintenance, repair and improvements. This included completing William Wardell’s design for the two southern spires, and sensitively integrating a new organ and other services within the interior. In 2000 the southern spires were installed, soaring to 75 metres.Built
William Wilkinson WardellAlterations
Government Architect Chris Johnson, 1993Awards
National Trust, Commendation 2000
Engineering Excellence Awards, Heritage 2000
Australian Institute of Architects NSW Awards – Civic Design Award, RAIA, 2001
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