The History of Melbourne’s St. Patricks Cathedral

St. Patrick’s Cathedral (also the Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Patrick) is a cathedral church belonging to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne. At the moment, Denis Hart is at the seat of its archbishop.

Located on Eastern Hill in the heart of bustling Melbourne, St. Patrick’s is surrounded by Albert Street, Lansdowne Street, Gisborne Street, and Cathedral Place. Just across the road from the cathedral, you can also find St. Peter’s Church, which was completed in 1848 and remains the Anglican parish church of Melbourne.

The cathedral itself boasts a traditional format, featuring an east-west axis and an altar that lies at the far eastern end. This is to symbolise the belief of Christ and his resurrection. The rest of the plan takes on the shape of a Latin cross, with a nave and wide aisles that are characteristic of these kinds of churches. Inside, there is a sanctuary with no less than seven chapels.

Perhaps the most striking thing about St. Patrick’s, though, is its height. It might be shorter in length than St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney, but it is the tallest and overall largest church edifice in the whole of Australia.

The History of St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Back in 1848, the Augustinian friar James Goold became the very first bishop of Melbourne (the fourth bishop in the whole of Australia).

After his appointment, he began negotiations with the colonial government to gain access to five acres of land on the Eastern Hill on which to build a church. Three years later, in 1851, the Colonial Secretary of Victoria finally granted the site to the Roman Catholic Church.

At that time, the Catholic community in Melbourne was predominantly Irish, hence why the cathedral was dedicated to St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland.

More recently, Pope Paul VI named the cathedral a minor basilica in 1974 and later, in 1986, Pope John Paul II visited to address the clergy.

Since its opening, St. Patrick’s has suffered some wear and tear so, to celebrate the centenary of its consecration in 1997, the cathedral was shut completely in 1994 in order to be restored to its former glory. Nothing was added, but a significant amount of conservation work was carried out, including fixing up the stained glass windows. Overall, the restoration process lasted between 1992 and 1997, and involved teams of experienced stonemasons and stained-glass craftsman who handled traditional materials no longer used in the building trade.