During this time of the pandemic, many of us have undoubtedly been reminded of how easily we can take for granted the people and places we hold dear. From the daily interactions with friends, family and colleagues, or the regular trips to our local park, shop or gym; none of us really imagined we'd be living in isolation for so long. Perhaps unexpectedly, none of us realised just how much we'd miss the ability to visit our local parish and participate in the Eucharist in the company of our fellow parishioners.
This Friday (19 June) we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. One of the many beautiful features of St Patrick's Cathedral (which will re-open from 23 June
) is the Chapel of the Sacred Heart.
Located just behind the organ, the Chapel was originally designated to be the organ and choir gallery. The Chapel was dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus after the arrival of a Sacred Heart statue from Germany in 1874 and the dedication of the Diocese of Melbourne to the Sacred Heart in 1875.
The Sacred Heart statue is in the centre of the reredos, surrounded by relief carvings of the Nativity and the Last Supper. Below are carvings of The Crowning with Thorns and The Agony in the Garden. Below is a carved inscription ‘Cor Jesus, Thronus Misericordiae’ (Heart of Jesus, Throne of Mercy).
The altar is made of alabaster. Its frontal features carvings of Jesus before Pilate and the scourging at the pillar. The tabernacle door is inscribed with the words ‘Cor Jesus, Salue in Te sperantium’ (Heart of Jesus, Salvation of those who hope in Thee).
An ornate credence table is next to the right wall of the chapel and matches the altar. The archway above the chapel bears the inscription: ‘Discite a Me quia mitis sum et humilis corde’ (Learn of Me because I am meek and humble of heart). An inscription on the side arches reads: ‘Venite ad Me omnes qui laboratis et onerati estis’ (Come to Me all ye who labour and are burdened).
Archbishop Thomas Joseph Carr (1917) is buried beneath the pavement of the Chapel. Archbishop Carr succeeded Archbishop James Alipius Goold, first Bishop and Archbishop of Melbourne. Archbishop Carr arrived in Melbourne exactly one year after the death of his predecessor and administered the Archdiocese for thirty years, during which time St Patrick’s Cathedral was completed and officially opened in October 1897.
In case you missed it during your last visit to the Cathedral, the Sacred Heart Chapel is well worth spending some time in once restrictions have been fully lifted.