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.

Highlights

  • 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:

General Mass

Monday to Friday 6.45am, 1.10pm, 5.30pm (Choral Mass Monday to Thursday during School term time)
Saturday 9.00am, 12.00pm
Saturday Vigil 6.00pm
Sunday 7.00am, 9.00am, 10.30am (Solemn Choral Mass), 6.00pm (Youth Mass)
Public Holidays  12 noon

Devotions

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

Reconciliation

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.

Tips

  • 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.

Transport

  • 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.

History

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.

Interesting Facts

  • 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.

7 Reviews

  1. lilyardenlao
    lilyardenlao
    Philippines 75 Comments
     -  27 Apr 2018

    Grand!

    It’s hard to miss this cathedral, especially when coming from King’s Cross station going downtown. In the morning, it will wow you with its magnificent architecture and stained glass. At night, there’s a light show where images are projected on the cathedral’s walls, mixing the historic and the modern.

  2. Hannah Pigram
    Hannah Pigram 23 Comments
     -  05 Nov 2017

    Fantastic attraction

    The location of the cathedral is nice and close to many other city centre attractions making it easy to add to your to-see list when walking around. Inside is beautiful with its stainless windows and intricate details on every pillar.
    I have been fortunate enough to go to Mass here and it was brilliant.
    Add it to your list and make sure to take photos outside as well as inside.

  3. Mademoiselle_MM
    Mademoiselle_MM
    Yugoslavia 17 Comments
     -  21 Aug 2017

    Fantastic attraction

    If you’re into history and architecture, St. Mary’s Cathedral is really something you can’t miss when visiting Sydney!!! This ancient and massive cathedral from late 19th century is absolutely breathtaking, I’ve spent a lot of time checking every single corner of it. The inside of the building is very large, you have an impression you can easily get lost in it! And the Gothic style is simply adorable, especially the stained glass which is probably one of the most famous features of this cathedral. The only flaw is that taking pictures is not allowed inside the building, but anyway, I highly recommend this place!!

  4. Avatar
    tabibu 16 Comments
     -  29 Jun 2017

    Excellent

    Really massive and incredible to look at! I think we spent a good half hour walking around it and taking it in from all angles. Somehow this spot is more quiet than the rest of the city, despite it being in the center. The cathedral is simply stunning and a must-see!

  5. Luh2sell
    Luh2sell
    United States 11 Comments
     -  14 Jun 2017

    Fantastic attraction

    Wow. This is a truly massive structure! This place is huge enough to host a marathon! Inside is no joke, either. I could spend nearly an hour walking in and around the cathedral. It is also a nice respite from touring the city. If you can find the patience and serenity to meditate here, I’d say go for it. You don’t have to be of a particular faith or religion to appreciate this place.

  6. chisomo1206
    chisomo1206 10 Comments
     -  11 Jun 2017

    Excellent

    This is a very stunning cathedral – Inside and out this is a beautiful place to visit. I enjoyed my visit and it’s beautiful art work and sculptures make it a place that will live long in my memory

  7. Avatar
    amandatanjy 19 Comments
     -  02 Jun 2017

    Fantastic attraction

    Visited the St Mary’s Cathedral and it was absolutely stunning. There was a service ongoing when I entered. It is located very closely to the Hyde Park and when you enter you get to see beautiful displays there. I recommend going during the evening hours when the sun is setting, the cathedral looks magnificent in that lighting especially for photos.

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