12 November, 2018

Old Saint Mary's Cathedral : 3

Old Saint Mary's Cathedral Sydney
Old Saint Mary's Cathedral : a drawing of the 1840s.
Image : State Library of NSW.

This lovely coloured drawing (by an unknown artist), dates from the early 1840s, and shews old Saint's Mary's Cathedral, viewed across College Street from Hyde Park.  This is the principal facade (facing west) and the northern transept (on the left), facing what is now Saint Mary's Road.  The stonework appears to be of a greyish colour, unlike the red sandstone of the present Saint Mary's.

This building is very different from ecclesiastical buildings of the later 19th and 20th centuries.  It is of a style termed Gothick or Regency.  Commenced in 1821, the old church took almost 15 years to be built and roofed, and thereafter work on the interior was undertaken.  By the time this drawing was made, the style of old Saint Mary's was already dated.  We see a building which has allusions to mediaeval architecture, but without all the profusion of detail and articulation that the mediaeval churches possess.  All of that is stripped back in the Gothick style.  

Quite a number of Gothick Catholic churches were constructed in Australia in the late 1830s but more particularly, the 1840s.  A number of them are still in existence.

Writing in 1828, when old Saint Mary's was being constructed, Dr Roger Oldfield described the vicinity in these words:

Eastward of this Park [Hyde] without trees is the Catholic Capel and a view of Port Jackson, with its numerous bays and woody shores.  The Gothic edifice, though a plain structure without the usual architraves, fretwork, moulding and sculpture, is a surprising piece of work, standing where it does ... This building, begun in 1820 [sic], and now roofing in, is in the form of a cross having at each corner octagonal buttresses rising above the roof with high-pointed caps, ornamented with turrets ... the whole has a fine effect, and by moonlight, but that the stone is fresh, you might fancy it is some old abbey.
Quoted in S' Mary's Cathedral Sydney 1821 - 1971 edited by Patrick O'Farrell.

There is an interesting insight into the attitudes of the period written on the drawing; the artist titled his (or her) drawing : Saint Mary's Cathedral (Papist).

Please visit this blog again for further posts over the coming weeks on the history and architecture of old Saint Mary's.


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