St Mary’s Cathedral
St Mary’s Cathedral is located in Victoria Square in Perth, Western Australia, one of the highest points in the city. Originally known as Church Hill, the prime location was intended for the Colony’s Anglican Church, however many within the congregation complained that it was too far from the towns centre to travel. As a result the land was turned over to the Roman Catholic Church.
The history of the Catholic Church in Western Australia began soon after the arrival of settlers to the Swan River Colony in 1829. By the 1840’s there was an estimated 100 Catholics living in the Perth area, but no priest. In 1841 a local school teacher, Robert D’Arcy made a request to the Church authorities in Sydney for a priest to be sent to Perth. In 1843 approval for the request was granted from Rome ( Vatican ) and Father John Brady, Father John Joostens (Belgian priest) and Patrick O’Reilly (a Catechist) were all sent to Fremantle on the ship ‘Water Witch” of the same year. Click here for more History of the Catholic Church in WA.
Built By Benedictine Monks
On February the 8th, 1863 the foundation stone of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (St Mary’s Cathedral) was laid by Bishop Salvado . The Gothic style Cathedral was designed by architect and master mason Brother Joseph Ascione and built by Benedictine monks. Brother Ascione was a Benedictine Oblate from the city of Naples in Italy. Each morning the tireless monks would walk six miles from Subiaco to the building site and work a full day before making the long walk back to Subiaco after dark. The cathedral was blessed and opened on January 29th, 1865.
The Second Cathedral
A second cathedral was built on the same site in the 1920’s with the intention of linking the two Cathedrals. Unfortunately the funds became unavailable for its completion due to the Depression and the onset of World War II.
In 1968, during the Meckering earthquake , a large cross fell 30m to the ground and various decorative items on the cathedral’s spire were damaged. Today the unfinished work (iron bars) can be seen at the eastern end of the cathedral. The second cathedral was designed by Mr Michael Cavanagh in the English style of perpendicular Gothic. The building stones were quarried locally from the same quarry which supplied the stone for the Perth General Post Office. The sanctuary mosaics designs were based on the ancient Irish Book of Kells. The stained glass windows were designed by John Hardman of Birmingham, in England.