06 December, 2018

Newspaper Report : 1868

A contemporary illustration of the ceremony of the Foundation of Saint Mary's Cathedral, 
8th December 1868.
Image : The Saint Bede Studio.

In a Saturday morning edition of the Catholic newspaper The Freeman's Journal, a lengthy report was given of the ceremony in which the Foundation Stone of the present Saint Mary's Cathedral was laid.  This took place on 8th December, 1868.  In addition to a number of invited guests, a large group of people, resident in and around the city, gathered to witness the historic occasion.

Part of the report in The Freeman's Journal is reproduced below :
On Tuesday last, the imposing ceremony of blessing and laying the foundation stone of St Mary’s Cathedral, was performed by His Grace the Archbishop. That day was chosen, being the festival of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, because the future Cathedral will be erected in her honour and in her name.

The Cathedral will face from North to South, this deviation from the usual custom being rendered necessary by the form of the ground. The altar will face north and be near St Mary’s Road looking into the Domain, and the sides continue along College Street as far as Woolloomooloo Street, giving a clear length when fully completed, of 350 feet.

It will be many years before the whole design is carried out; but, when completed, Saint Mary’s will bear favourable comparison with many of those churches, which before the Reformation, were the pride of the Church, and are still monuments of the piety of our ancestors.
Notification of the ceremony of Tuesday was given in all the churches of Sunday last, and His Grace the Archbishop issued a pastoral letter which was read on the same occasion.

Early on Tuesday morning, the merry peels from the towers of our churches announced that something unusual was going to happen that day, and long before the appointed hour at which the ceremony was to take place, a crowd was making for Saint Mary's. Preparations had been made for a large gathering, but the crowds were even more numerous than was anticipated. On the north-western portion of the enclosure was a large tent in which those that were invited were accommodated, and facing them, and a few feet from the spot where the future High Altar will stand (upon which was erected a large wooden Cross) and at a distance of some 30 feet, was a platform for His Grace and the clergy where the greater part of the ceremony was performed. 
Shortly after 11 o’clock a procession was formed in the temporary cathedral and headed by the cross bearer and two acolytes with lighted candles, proceeded to the platform erected for the clergy. The following was the order : His Grace the Archbishop vested in Cope and mitre ... their Lordships the Bishops of Bathurst and Goulburn ... their Lordships the Bishops of Maitland and Enos ... and the Very Reverend the Vicar General.  
The cantors were the Reverends Dr Quirk and Father Dwyer, who were assisted by Mr WJ Cordner, the organist of the Cathedral. 
The ceremony commenced with the blessing of water and salt to be used in the service of blessing stone ... The sermon being concluded, Mr Robert Coveny and Mr James Mullins, two of the treasurers of the Cathedral Fund, approached the Archbishop and, on behalf of the finance committee, presented His Grace with a splendid gold trowel manufactured for the occasion by Mr Delarue of George Street.  
The ceremony of blessing and laying the foundation stone was then proceeded with, and as it differs in no way from similar services often described in this journal, it is unnecessary on the present occasion to go through the various prayers and ceremonies. We may mention that, in a cavity beneath the foundation stone, were deposited one of each of the coins of the Realm, and copies of The Freeman's Journal, The [Sydney Morning] Herald, The Empire, and The Evening News. These were covered with a brass plate, upon which an inscription had been made ...
A collection was then made and the result showed that the magnificent sum of £1400 had been contributed, not in large sums by a few wealthy individuals, but by hundreds who came generously to give their mite in the good work of erecting the Cathedral Church of the Archdiocese. 


Before the days of journalistic photography, a sketcher would often be present on notable occasions which were intended to be reported in newspapers.  From what was sketched, an artistic engraving would be reproduced for the newspaper or magazine.  This frequently occurred in 19th century Sydney publications.  We are very fortunate to have a contemporary image of the Foundation Stone ceremony, which shows the scene much as it was described in the newspaper report. The huge crowd of people present is evident. In the background on the left, a spire is visible.  This is Saint James' Anglican Church, King Street.  

NEXT POST : Addresses given at the Foundation Stone Ceremony.


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