While cathedrals across the world traditionally face the liturgical east, St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney is oriented north–south, conforming not to ecclesiastical orthodoxy but to the city grid and the site’s contours.
A Gothic Revival landmark opposite Hyde Park, the Cathedral was designed by architect William Wardell and completed by John Hennessy. Its form and finish richly express the architecture of divinity and worship: its cruciform shape, the soaring vaulted timber nave (22 metres high and 107 metres long), the exquisite linings of alabaster, granite and limestone (crafted by master tiler Peter Melocco), intricate stained-glass panels by Hardman & Co, and the yellowblock sandstone of the honey-coloured exterior quarried in nearby Pyrmont.
This is actually the third St Mary’s Cathedral on this site. The first, completed in 1821, burnt to the ground in 1865, as did its temporary replacement a few years later. The present St Mary’s, ostensibly finished in 1928, sat uncrowned until 2000, when its twin sandstone spires were finally added.
One year earlier, Cook + Phillip Aquatic Centre by BVN was completed on the doorstep of St Mary’s Cathedral, with a landscaped ‘piazza’ by Spackman Mossop, increasing the prominence and public domain around St Mary’s.
Reminding us that Sydney is a secular city, the Australian Museum – the country’s oldest natural history museum – stands just across William Street. The temple of Darwinism, face to face with the House of God.
Cathedral, Cathedral Crypt
Please use disabled access located off St Mary’s Road (near College Street).