A closer look at St Patrick’s Cathedral: Part four
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A closer look at St Patrick’s Cathedral: Part four

Wednesday 23 September 2020

Communications Office
During lockdown, we’re continuing to adapt to life without simple pleasures like going to cafés, or restaurants, or bookshops. But also, one of the things we miss is being in and around those beautiful sacred spaces that we frequent each week for Mass. That’s why we’re running a series on spaces around the Archdiocese – particularly St Patrick’s Cathedral – that reminds people of the beauty around us in the Archdiocese, but also to inspire hope that we’ll come to these places with new appreciation once the lockdown ends. Let us pray for the triumph of Christ as we continue during lockdown and we welcome you tune in to celebrate Mass this Sunday at 11am.   

Amber Glass Windows

No matter the weather outside, inside the cathedral, parishioners have been comforted for over century by the warm glow of sunlight beaming through the amber windows.

Architect William Wardell specifically chose this golden colour for the cathedral windows because they give the illusion of warmth. From his experience of building churches, Wardell was aware of this. He had already built 33 churches in England before he came to Melbourne.

According to historian and researcher Paola Colleoni, whose dissertation formed part of the research project, ‘The Invention of Melbourne’, which set out to capture the architectural ambitions and ongoing legacy of Archbishop Goold and architect William Wardell, the amber glass was a deliberate choice.

‘Wardell was very concerned about every detail. He ordered the amber glass for the nave of the cathedral from Hardman in Birmingham, with whom he had already worked and who was probably the most renowned glass artist at the time, in England at least… He wanted to create a sombre environment that would be fitting for the celebration of Mass.’


Given the thought Wardell put into featuring the, ambient amber windows, Archbishop Carr brought home to Melbourne an ornate set of candelabra from Dublin for the high altar to complement the peaceful glow of the windows.

According to Archdiocese archivist Rachel Naughton, the candelabras were ordered from Thomas Gaunt & Co in Bourke St Mall, Melbourne. Gaunt came to Melbourne also in 1858, the same year as William Wardell. Gaunt set up a gold and silver business and a clock-making business where he made the chromometers for many racetracks in Victoria and town hall clocks. Gaunt was inspired by Pugin designs that Hardman & Co were also producing out of England. Gaunt’s work was of high quality and both Wardell and the Archbishops would have been thrilled to be able to access this sort of quality work produced locally.

The Eagle Lectern

The Eagle lectern replaced the original elaborate gothic pulpit that was installed in 1890 at the end of the first Vatican council because the altar was too far removed from the congregation.

The sanctuary was extended down so that the Word is broken at the traditional lectern, as the bread is broken at the nearby altar. At the same time the pews in the transepts, previously facing in the same direction as those in the nave, were turned to face the new main altar.

The lectern was also made by Thomas Gaunt & Co, and is a wonderful example of their work. No doubt he took his inspiration from Pugin designs.

Eagle lecterns were very popular in Neo Gothic churches. The eagle is a symbol of St John the Evangelist. St Matthew was represented by a man with book, St Mark by a lion, St Luke by a calf and St John by an eagle.
If you missed previous entries in our series on a closer look at St Patrick's Cathedral, read part one herepart two here and part three here.