St Paul’s stands at the very heart of the City of Melbourne. In style, it echoes the grand Cathedrals of Europe. Designed by distinguished English revival architect William Butterfield, the Cathedral is built in the neo-Gothic transitional style, partly Early English and partly Decorated. Many consider St Paul’s to be Butterfield’s final masterpiece.
St Paul’s Cathedral has been an integral part of Christian Melbourne since the city’s foundation: it stands on the site where the first public Christian services in Melbourne were led by Dr Alexander Thomson in 1836.From 1836 to 1848 the site on which the Cathedral stands served as a corn market for the growing city. In 1848, it was granted to the Anglican Church to build the bluestone St Paul’s Parish Church. Consecrated in 1852, St Paul’s Church was used until 1885 when it was demolished to make way for the liturgical West-end of the present Cathedral.
The Cathedral’s foundation stone was laid in 1880, and work continued for eleven years, leading to the consecration of St Paul’s Cathedral on 22 January 1891.The construction of the three spires did not begin until 1926, to a revised design of John Barr of Sydney rather than the original design of an octagonal central tower and gable west end towers of Butterfield. The central spire is the second highest in the Anglican Communion, after Salisbury Cathedral.
Like European Cathedrals, St Paul’s also relies on the services of traditional craftspeople to maintain the historic building. In the 1960s a first restoration of the exterior of the Cathedral took place, in 1989 the Cathedral’s magnificent organ was restored. In 2009, extensive restoration works were carried out to the exterior and interior of the Cathedral. More recently, the historic office buildings at St Paul’s House, immediately adjacent to the Cathedral were extensively restored to provide new ministry and administrative facilities for the Cathedral and Diocese of Melbourne.
Find out how to contribute to our ongoing maintenance needs by a tax-deductible donation.
St Paul’s Cathedral Through the Ages
Explore a collection of images and stories marking significant milestones and events in the life of the Cathedral and city. Kindly supplied by Culture Victoria. See the collection here.
Architect: William Butterfield
The original Architect of St Paul’s Cathedral was English gothic revivalist William Butterfield. Butterfield would not travel to the colony however, and so his drawings, some of them lifesize, contain extremely detailed instructions, for fear that the anitpdoeans might get something wrong.
This video produced by the State Library of Victoria, explores some of Butterfield’s original drawings and notes that they have in their collection.