St Paul's Cathedral Melbourne

Melbourne, Victoria

The site of the city's first Christian service, St Pauls Cathedral Melbourne's story starts the same year the city was founded.

St Paul's Cathedral Melbourne
- © Rexness

What is St Paul's Cathedral Melbourne?

An ornate and imposing gothic revival structure in the heart of the CBD, opposite Federation Square, this Anglican cathedral is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city.

As if the three spires and startling mix of coloured stones on its exterior wasn't enough, it is on the inside the building really comes alive. Shiny patterned floors, stunning rows of arches and bold colour contrasts really make it a sight to behold.

And it only grows more fascinating when you learn its history.

St Paul's Cathedral Melbourne
- © a.canvas.of.light

The Origins of St Paul's Cathedral Melbourne

Melbourne was founded in 1835, and in that same year the city's first church service was held on the site where the cathedral now stands. Back then the area was a corn market but in 1848 the land was granted to the Christian church.

St Paul's Cathedral Melbourne
- © Rob Deutscher

The Predecessor of St Paul's Cathedral Melbourne

A church was consecrated there four years later, in 1852. This was not the cathedral however, although it too was named St Paul's. It served as the local parish church for 30 years but was then deemed too small for its congregation.

The city had grown exponentially over this period, the goldrushes of the 50s and 60s bringing people flocking to Victoria from far and wide. As a result, Swanston Street, where the church was located, had grown into a major thoroughfare. A cathedral was now needed.

St Paul's Cathedral Melbourne
- © Rexness

St Paul's Cathedral Melbourne is Born

Renowned English architect William Butterfield was hired to design the cathedral and in 1880 its foundation stone was laid by the Governor of Victoria.

Its building was a long and arduous process and somewhere along the way Butterfield and the church authorities fell out. The architect resigned in 1884 leaving the cathedral half-finished.

A local architect, Joseph Reed, was hired to replace him and did so with aplomb. Not only did he oversee the building's completion in accordance with Butterfield's original plans, he also designed an attached chapter house in the same style.

The cathedral was consecrated in 1891 but still lacked one defining feature: its spires.

St Paul's Cathedral Melbourne
- © Daniel Betts

The Spires of St Paul's Cathedral Melbourne

For almost 40 years the building was left looking a bit squat and sorry for itself until, in 1926, construction began on the spires. This ended in 1932 and for many years the structure seemed complete.

In the 1990s however concerns were raised over the effect traffic vibrations were having on the building, particularly on the spires. A public appeal raised $18m towards restorations, without which it was feared those final features would have come tumbling down.

Thankfully the restorations did the job and the cathedral remains with us today, a stunning and historic Melbourne highlight.

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What you need to know

St Paul's Cathedral Melbourne
Flinders St, Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia
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