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St Mary’s Cathedral

For non-Catholics, Sydney’s St Mary’s Cathedral makes a stunning architectural statement and for practising Catholics it also makes a huge spiritual statement. The cathedral is gothic and grand, adding a mix of grace and beauty to the CBD. It is a walk from Rydges World Square – just head up to Hyde Park and it is across College Street from the north side of the park – it’s impossible to miss! The Cathedral represents the spiritual origins of the Catholic Church in Australia and is very much still a ‘working’ church with Mass happening daily as well as choral services, baptisms and weddings. It is also a fine place for individual meditation, reflection and prayer.

St Mary’s is one of Sydney’s most historic buildings and one of the finest examples of English-style gothic churches in the world. The architect, William Wilkinson Wardell, dreamed of an impressive structure shaped from the local yellow-block sandstone on which Sydney is built. The building was finally completed 100 years after the architect’s death (he died in 1899). Wardell was a civil engineer and an architect and he migrated to Australia in 1858. He designed a number of Australia’s notable public buildings including St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne, Government House in Melbourne and St John’s College at the University of Sydney.

St Mary’s Cathedral is dedicated to Mary Help of Christians and the building is home to many treasures. In 2010 Mary MacKillop was canonised in Rome and given the title of St Mary of the Cross and there is a statue of St Mary of the Cross at the Hyde Park entrance. The stained glass windows are sensational and there are around 40 pictorial windows. Around the walls of the aisles are oil paintings of the Stations of the Cross, there is a marble replica of Michelangelo’s Pieta, an ornate baptismal font, the grave of the Unknown Soldier, sculpted by G.W. Lambert and the crypt with its extensive terrazzo mosaic floor depicting the story of creation.

The crypt is the last resting place of the Archbishops of Sydney and is home to an exhibition that details the history of early Sydney Church, titled The First Australian Catholics – from convict ships to the great fire. Included in the exhibition are display cases that contain artefacts from those early days including an oaken tabernacle, convict vestments, candlesticks and a crucifix believed to have been used in the first official Mass in 1803 and the ‘marriage dollar’ said to have been loaned to financially embarrassed bridegrooms. The Crypt may be closed for Mass and Special Events and you can contact the Cathedral on +61 2 9220 0400 for opening times.

The bells are also an important part of the cathedral’s grandeur. They are rung before Solemn Mass on Sundays and on major feast days. They are also rung as part of the finale to Sydney’s in the Domain concert in January as part of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. For more information on the cathedral including Mass times, visit the St Mary’s Cathedral official website.

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