St Mary’s Cathedral is the centre of Sydney’s Catholic community, and the seat of Sydney’s Archbishop. Standing on the place where the first Catholic Chapel in Australia stood, it’s a place rich in spirituality and history. St Mary’s was built in the Gothic Revival style from local sandstone, making it an incredible sight in the middle of urban Sydney.
- Services – St Mary’s Cathedral is an active place of worship, and a variety of services are held here including Mass, Devotions and Reconciliation. There are no specific limits on who can and cannot attend the services, but respect for the church and its worshippers are requested. Times for the services are:
|Monday to Friday||6.45am, 1.10pm, 5.30pm (Choral Mass Monday to Thursday during School term time)|
|Sunday||7.00am, 9.00am, 10.30am (Solemn Choral Mass), 6.00pm (Youth Mass)|
|Public Holidays||12 noon|
|Monday to Thursday||5.00pm Vespers (Evening Prayer)|
|Friday||12 noon Divine Mercy Novena with Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament|
|Saturday||5.30pm Vespers (2nd and 4th Saturdays of the month)|
|Sunday||5.00pm Solemn Vespers and Benediction sung by the Cathedral Choir|
|3rd Sunday of the Month||5.30pm Evening Prayer sung by Seminarians replaces Choral Vespers|
|Monday to Friday||11.30am to 11.55am, 4.30pm to 5.30pm|
|Saturday||12noon to 1pm, 5.00pm to 5.25pm|
- Stained Glass – One of most famous features of the St Mary’s Cathedral is the gorgeous stained glass, which was created over a period of 50 years. There are 40 windows in total, representing various themes, including the Downfall of Humanity, the Mysteries of the Rosary, the Birth and Childhood of Jesus and the Lives of Saints. As you progress along the glass, you can see how the styles progress from the Gothic Revival style to the more lavish early 20th century styles. The windows that attract the most attention are the three rose windows, and the impressive chancel window, considered a masterpiece among 19th century designs.
- Bells – The bells of St Mary’s Cathedral have a history almost as interesting as the church they sit in. All of them were cast in London (the first set arriving in 1843), and following fire and renovations they have spread as far as Adelaide. The ones that remain, as well as additional ones cast in 1881, sit in the Central Tower and are rung before mass on Sundays, and on major feast days.
- Crypt Historical Exhibition – Learn about the incredible history of the early Sydney Church, which is on exhibit in the St Mary’s Cathedral Crypt. The exhibition, entitles The First Australian Catholics – from convict ships to the great fire, includes artefacts from the early days of Catholicism in Sydney, some dating as far back as 1750.
- St Mary’s Treasures – St Mary’s is home to many devotional objects and treasures, which can be viewed primarily in the aisles of the cathedral. Look out for a replica of Michaelangelo’s Pieta (the original is in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome), G.W. Lamber’s Grave of the Unknown Soldier sculpture and L. Chovet’s Stations of the Cross. Also make sure to take a moment to enjoy the incredible mosaic floor found in the crypt.
- Photography – Although St Mary’s Cathedral is an incredibly beautiful location, showcasing some of the most incredible Gothic architecture in the Sydney area, photography is not allowed inside the building. The church is an active place of worship, and out of respect for location and its worshipers anyone trying to take photographs will be requested to stop by security guards onsite.
- Location – The St Mary’s Cathedral is located very centrally in the Sydney CBD area, and is almost directly next to Hyde Park. Following your visit at the cathedral you might enjoy taking a walk around the park, which is the oldest public parkland in Australia.
- Train: St James station is less than one block from St Mary’s Cathedral.
- Bus: Take any bus travelling Elizabeth Street, Castlereagh Street and George Street towards Hyde Park, and alight at St James station, or Hyde Park.
- Walk: St Mary’s Cathedral is very centrally located in Sydney, and easy to get to from most places in the CBD.
The foundation stone of the present St Mary’s Cathedral was laid in 1868, following a fire that destroyed the original cathedral in 1865. It was designed by the most prominent Gothic Revival architect at the time: William Wardell. The Archbishop at the time, Polding, wrote to Wardell asking him to design the church however he saw fit, giving him total control over the design.
A dedication mass took place in September of 1882, but St Mary’s was far from finished. It continued over the next hundred years, with more and more of the sandstone building coming into place. Such was the time difference between construction, that two distinct colours and textures could be seen on the internal walls, that are only now beginning to equalise.
Despite the fact that St Mary’s was in use for the entire time, it was not entirely finished until 2000, when a grant from the Australian government allowed the church to finally complete the spires on the towers to match the central tower.
- St Mary’s Cathedral is 107 metres long and almost 75 metres high at its highest point.
- In the construction of the cathedral, there were many issues with fire. Not only was the original cathedral burned to the ground, but the wooden temporary church was also a victim of fire.