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A very interesting tour was attended by 35 members of the Probus Club of Donvale Hill Inc on Tuesday 9 May.  On arrival at St Paul s Cathedral via The Great West door all were divided into three groups to be shown around by volunteer guides.

The Cathedral is the seat of the Anglican Primate in Australia and services are held each day for the people of Melbourne and Victoria. Each Saturday there is a morning service for the Chinese Mandarin worshippers in our community.  Approximately 11,000 people can be accommodated.

The early Christian settlers of the colony worshipped publicly on the present site from 1836 to 1848. The Church of England then built St Paul s Church which was consecrated in 1852. This bluestone Church was used until 1885 when, due to the population growth and wealth during the gold rush in Victoria, it was deemed inadequate and was therefore demolished.  The present day Cathedral was designed by the English revival architect William Butterfield,  then aged 63,  in the neo Gothic style. Butterfield s plans were supervised from England as he never travelled to Victoria or Australia.  The foundation stone was laid in 1880 and after many delays the Cathedral was consecrated in1891. Some 40 years later the original tower design was revised and three spires were constructed. The central spire is the second highest in the Anglican Church at 320 feet, with Salisbury Cathedral, U.K. being the highest at 404 feet. Two tone stone for the Cathedral was favoured by Butterfield, the sandstone came from Waurn Ponds and the grey stone from Malmsbury, with Belgian red grained granite being used for some internal flooring. The Cathedral has beautiful encaustic flooring tiles made by Maw and Co. in Shropshire U.K. that have borne the feet of worshippers over the years showing very little wear.  The striking colours of the floor tiles and the fleur de lis like pattern can be seen in many different variations.

The stained glass windows were made by Clayton and Bell in England, and then packed in molasses to prevent breakages whilst on the sea journey to Melbourne.  There are a total of 67 windows with stained glass panels of 2 or 3 within each window. Three windows were commissioned in Australia in 2005. Windows on the east side of the building depict the life of Christ and on the west side, the life of St Paul. High above the windows, the vaulted ceiling is lined with New Zealand kauri and reaches about 25 metres.

Within the Cathedral are many plaques dedicated to notable people and worshippers. One such beautiful mosaic of St Paul,   Murano glass,   was donated to the Cathedral. A finely carved sideboard of English kings is based on the screen at York Minster, U.K.

The pipe organ was built by TC Lewis and Co. in England and has four manuals and 3,500 pipes. Consecrated during a service in 1891, it was restored in 1990 by organ builders, Harrison and Harrison, of Durham, UK.  

Music plays an important role in the Cathedral with both religious and secular music performances held regularly.  The traditional men and boys  choir of the Cathedral have led choral weekday and Sunday services since 1888.  The Cathedral will soon become the only Cathedral in the southern hemisphere with a designated girls  choir. Eighteen girls from Lowther Hall Anglican Grammar School in Essendon will form the Girls’ Voices of the Cathedral Choir when they make their choral debut later this year. 

The elaborately decorated high altar and Reredos are made from Devonshire marble, alabaster and Venetian mosaics. Scenes of The Last Supper and Jesus death are shown above the central cross.

Our Cathedral guide pointed out many interesting features including the small Chapel of Ascension depicting, in glass mosaics, the ascension of Jesus to heaven, the Brass Lectern featuring an eagle on a sphere, bearing on its back the Holy Bible, the Bishop’s Chair and the Archbishop’s Chair.

Inside the Great West Door, in a position signifying entry into the Christian faith, there is a round Baptismal Font made of Harcourt granite. An Immersion Font, added later in 1912, was built in memory of Field Flowers Goe, the third Bishop of Melbourne.

During the Tour, the guides gave an overview of the Cathedral and encouraged everyone to explore further. 

Our thanks to Ken Falconer OAM for arranging the visit to this iconic landmark in Melbourne.

Beverley McArthur