St Mary’s Cathedral is another dominant building in Hyde Park. It stands on the site of the first Catholic Chapel in Australia. Constructed in local sandstone, the Gothic Revival style of its architecture 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. It started as a chapel between 1821 and 1835, was a cathedral from 1835, and has been a minor basilica since 1932. Because of the lie of the land, the cathedral is oriented north-south rather than east-west.
Two Roman Catholics arrived in 1820 to minister to the Roman Catholics in Australia. The original site overlooked barren land – the area which is now Hyde Park. The foundation stone for the first St Mary’s was laid in 1821. That cathedral was destroyed by fire on 29 June 1865. The architect William Wilkinson Wardell (1823-99), a disciple of Pugin, was commissioned by Archbishop John Polding (1794-1877) to design a new St Mary’s. The foundation stone was laid in 1868. Wardell used the Gothic style to make this building grand and open. It has three levels of arched openings along its length: the high arches of the main arcade, the gallery-like openings of the triforium, and the windows of the clerestory. It was dedicated in 1882. The nave was not dedicated until 1928. The cathedral has many treasures and beautiful stained glass windows.
Joseph Lyons (1879-1939), 10th Prime Minister, lay in state here after his death.
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