The most impressive approach to St. Mary’s is via Hyde Park, from where you can get a real sense of the length of the nave and the height of the spires.
Situated adjacent to Hyde Park in the centre of Sydney, St. Mary’s Cathedral is the seat of the city’s archbishop and the most important church in Australia. It is also the longest, at an impressive 107 metres, and although it is neither the tallest nor the largest overall, its dominant appearance from all angles will still leave a lasting impression.
60 Years in the Making
After the original church was destroyed by a fire in 1865, work on the current building began the following year. Planned during an era of gold rush prosperity in Australia, the new cathedral was intended to reflect the country’s newfound power and increasing autonomy from the British Empire, and as such was ambitious, with plans for a huge nave and three towers. Though it began to be used for services in 1882, St. Mary’s was still unfinished at the time, and construction on the internal part of the nave did not even start until 1913. It was finally completed in 1928, some 60 years after construction began. If you look closely, you can make out a slight difference in the texture and colour of the sandstone on the internal walls which hints at the two-stage building process.
Showing Some Glass
Approaching St. Mary’s today, you will be struck by its dramatic architecture, which is some of the finest to have come out of the Gothic revival of the 19th century. Particularly impressive are the twin 75m towers, although strictly speaking these are not authentic – the spires were only added in the year 2000. One of the real highlights of a visit to St. Mary’s is the abundance of high-quality stained glass. There are approximately 40 separate windows depicting a variety of scenes, the best of which is the Downfall of Humanity in the main chancel window. Also worth a look is the realistic G.W. Lambert sculpture of The Unknown Soldier, which sits in the aisle.
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