What is significant?
The site on which St Patricks Cathedral now stands was part of a five acre government grant to the Catholic Church given over the years 1848-53. The western section of the site was set aside for a church, the central portion for clergy accommodation and the eastern part was designated for educational purposes. The present St Patricks Cathedral designed by William Wardell replaces two earlier structures which were both demolished to make way for a larger church. A foundation stone was blessed on 9 April 1850 for a church designed by Samuel Jackson. This was partly built but his association with the church was discontinued in 1854 and architects George and Schneider were then appointed. The partly built sandstone church designed by Samuel Jackson was demolished. The first section of the bluestone church designed by George and Schneider opened on 14 February 1858. This was partially demolished to make way for the present cathedral proposed by architect William W Wardell. Construction commenced in 1858 and the nave and aisles were opened in 1869. The remainder of the church itself and the sacristy were completed in 1897. The spires and confessional were added and the west door rebuilt in 1936-40. The spire is higher than Wardell originally intended. The majority of stained glass in the cathedral is by Hardman of Birmingham, with two windows by Mayer of Munich and one by Montgomery. The stencilling and painting of the sanctuary is by Charles Firth and carved altars by Farmer and Brindley. C N Bell carved the throne, credence tables, bishop's chair and confessionals. The intended wall mosaics and paintings were not completed. The statue of Catholic emancipator Daniel O'Connell (1775-1847) by sculptor Sir Thomas Brock was erected by public subscription and unveiled on 30 May 1891. The statue of long-serving former Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne, Dr Daniel Mannix by English sculptor Nigel Boonham, was unveiled in March 1999.
The bluestone tower in the south east corner of the site is all that remains of St Patricks College. The construction of the college, the first Diocesan Grammar school in Victoria, commenced in 1854 with the laying of the foundation stone by Bishop Goold. The architect for the building was Patrick Scanlan. Extensions to the building were carried out at some time between 1857 and 1861, by which time the existing tower had been constructed. The next major additions occurred early this century. The college closed in December 1968, and the majority of St Patricks College was demolished in January 1971 after a lengthy but unsuccessful campaign by the National Trust. It was replaced by a largely subterranean building comprising offices, hall and presbytery designed by Roy Simpson of Yuncken Freeman Architects.
How is it significant?
St Patricks Cathedral precinct is of architectural and historical importance to the state of Victoria.
Why is it significant?
It is of architectural importance as the largest Gothic revival building in Victoria and one of the finest works of prominent Victorian architect William Wardell with impressive scale and masterly handling of space. The apsidal chevet chapels, ambulatory and sanctuary based on French models are of particular note. The stained glass by Hardman of Birmingham and Mayer of Munich. The remaining tower of St Patricks College is interesting for its concave roof. The offices and presbytery, while the result of demolition of the St Patricks College buildings, are of architectural importance as an outstanding work of Roy Simpson, of Yuncken and Freeman. The unusual subterranean design around the central circular courtyard allows the cathedral to dominate the surrounding area and opens up the vistas to it. The sympathetic use of materials, low profile and use of water ponds to the roofs fronting Victoria Parade helps the offices and presbytery to seem more of a landscape element than a building. The cathedral, and the furniture and objects within the cathedral which were designed by Wardell reflect the strong influence of Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (1812-1842) and his writings on medieval architecture and Catholicism. Pugin's designs for buildings extended to the design of objects such as chalices, lamps, and even to the vestments.
St Patricks Cathedral precinct is of historic importance as being the centre of Roman Catholic activity in Victoria since its opening in 1869. The cathedral building is of historical importance for the way in which its scale and monumentality reflect the change in Melbourne from a provincial town to a prosperous provincial city following the goldrushes in Victoria. St Patricks College is of historical importance as Victoria's first Catholic secondary school and the second home of the original seminary in the colony. The school was conducted by the Jesuit fathers from 1854-1968.