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St Patrick’s Cathedral

One of the first Cathedrals in Australia, St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne is regarded as a minor Basilica by the Roman Catholic hierarchy.

The history of it’s development goes back to early in Melbourne’s history. In 1848, the Augustinian friar James Goold was appointed the first bishop of Melbourne and he managed to negotiate with the colonial government for the grant of five acres of land for a church in the Eastern Hill area began in 1848. In 1951, the government granted the site to the Roman Catholic Church and it was used for development of the cathedral. It would take almost a hundred years for the church to have it’s construction completed.

The style is Geometric Decorated Gothic, and the complexity of this design choice can be seen in the large west window of the nave. The eastern arm with its chevet of radiating chapels in the French manner is still principally in the English late Thirteenth Century style, giving the most complete essay attempted in that style during the Nineteenth Century.

Although the nave was completed within 10 years, construction proceeded slowly, and was further delayed by the severe depression which hit Melbourne in 1891. Under the leadership of Archbishop Thomas Carr, the cathedral was consecrated in 1897 and even then it was not finished. Daniel Mannix, who became Archbishop of Melbourne in 1917, maintained a constant interest in the cathedral, which he was determined to see finished after the long delays during the previous 30 years. He oversaw the addition of the spires and other elements in the late 1930s. The building was officially completed in 1939.

There has been music at St Patrick’s since 1858, but the present cathedral choir was founded in 1939 when the Vienna Mozart Boys Choir found itself stranded in Australia at the outbreak of war. St Patrick’s choir has between 50-60 members who are all students of St Kevin’s College in Toorak, through a scholarship program from the archdiocese. Prior to 1996, the choir was made of students from cathedral college, a school which used to exist on the site of the Australian Catholic University.