13 October, 2019

Archdiocesan Presbyterate circa 1872 : 1

Clergy of the Archdiocese of Sydney with Archbishop Polding circa 1872.

Writing from Sydney on 11th July, 1873 to Dom Henry Gregory OSB at Downside Abbey, Archbishop Polding remarked : 

I send you a photograph of most of the priests of the Archdiocese; you will recognise many old friends — old in more senses than one.

The photograph appears above.  Except that it is not one photograph, but a montage of individual portraits of the priests, arranged to give the impression that they were all gathered together with the Archbishop. It would appear that the montage was assembled in 1872, or even slightly earlier.  It is a clever piece of work.

A close examination of the image reveals that the priests are disproportionate to each other and often looking in different directions.  The background of the image and the floor covering are obviously created by drawing, not photography.  The quality of lens available in these earlier years of photography would not permit such a wide-angle view to be captured.  Once the montage - probably quite large - was completed, it was then photographed and smaller prints were made available for distribution.  Probably at one time many copies of the photograph existed.  One is on display in the crypt of Saint Mary's Cathedral, Sydney.

The extract from the letter of Archbishop Polding puts paid to a foolish inaccuracy which pops-up from time to time, namely that this image was taken at the Plenary Council of Australia held at Saint Mary's in 1844.  Photography had not arrived in Sydney in 1844 and many of those who appear in the group were not in Sydney in 1844.  So, let us read no more of such silly claims.

A further post will provide some closer-views of the image, and identify each of the forty-five priests depicted with the Archbishop. 

A framed copy of the clergy group on display in the Crypt of Saint Mary's Cathedral.
Also on display are the mitre and crosier of Archbishop Polding used by him
after the devastating second Cathedral fire of 1869.


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