Old Cathedral restoration needs more help


THERE was a time when St Peter and Paul’s (Old) Cathedral was the main focal point for Catholics in Southern New South Wales.

And whilst the Old Cathedral still has a strong presence being the main church in the Lilac City’s Mary Queen of Apostles Parish, it is in much need of repairs and thus funds.

“Despite the Cathedral restoration project being some part under the National Trust of Australia (New South Wales), the money has dried up and our maintenance has stopped,” said restoration project manager Brian Watchirs.

“Our aim is to raise at least $5 million which is needed to stabilize the building, overcome the serious damp problem, repair and clean the windows among many other maintenance tasks.”

St Peter and Paul’s was initially built as a smaller brick church on the current site of Bourke and Verner Streets where Archbishop John Bede Polding first laid out the site in 1840.

Initial construction works began in 1844 and the brick church was completed in 1848, at which point works began on building of the presbytery next door in Verner Street.

And while the original church shell is not recognisable to most, a visit underneath the Sanctuary shows some of the old foundations which can be seen upon inspection under the Cathedral floor. 

“Rising damp was an issue as the site seemed to attract heaps of water, whether we were close to a spring or something I don’t know,” Mr Watchirs said.

“Our contractors dug out several feet underneath the original level and re-did most of the footings, so it is much better now and we don’t have the damp problem anymore.”

Mr Watchirs says he and others are doing the most with the means at their disposal in trying to restore the Old Cathedral to its former glory.

It worries him however as to where significant financial help might come from.

He says the Old Cathedral is an important part of the history, not just in the Archdiocese, but also in Australia considering Goulburn is the nation’s first inland city.

And as the Cathedral celebrated its patronal feast day recently on June 29, Mr Watchirs thinks it is timely to seek more help from the community.

“Where there are a number of blue stone churches in Australia, Goulburn’s Old Cathedral’s claim to fame is that it is the only green stone (diorite porphyrite) church in Australia and possibly the world,” he said.

“It’s important that we keep and preserve our heritage, so if anyone is in a position to help in anyway then we would greatly appreciate it.”

To learn more about the Old Cathedral and or to make a donation, call (02) 4821 1022 or go online to http://www.stspeterandpaulsoldcathedral.org/


Brief Timeline of Sts Peter and Paul’s Old Cathedral

  • 1864: Goulburn was created a diocese.
  • 1871: Construction of the present Old Cathedral was commenced.  Bishop William Lanigan secured the services of Andrea Stombuco as the architect. The Old Cathedral was built in two stages.  The nave of the Cathedral was constructed first under the direct supervision of Mr. Stombuco. The nave of the old church was demolished and taken out through the western doors of the Cathedral. 
  • 1887: The second stage commenced.
  • 1890: The second stage was completed under the direction of Mr. Charles Spadaccini, using the original design of Mr. Stombuco.  Prior to construction of the second stage the sanctuary of the old church was still in use.  It was demolished and some of the bricks were used as fill under the sanctuary floor of the Cathedral.
  • 1927 to 1928: Further renovations were made under Bishop Barry.  The sanctuary floor was raised, the main altar and reredos were moved back to the eastern wall and the sanctuary was lined with marble. During this restoration it was discovered that the old timber floor in the main body of the nave was in very poor condition due to moisture and ventilation problems.  The floor was replaced with a swung concrete floor and covered with wooden parquetry. 
  • 1948: Goulburn was raised to the status of an Archdiocese, thus making Archbishop Terence Maguire the last Bishop of Goulburn and the first Archbishop of Canberra-Goulburn.
  • 1957: Another renovation was taken out. The aisles were covered with bitumen adhesive and rubber tiles.
  • 1962: During the episcopate of Archbishop Eris O’Brien the Archbishop moved to Canberra and St. Christopher’s Cathedral at Manuka became the centre of the Archdiocese.  Sts. Peter and Paul’s Cathedral has been known as the Old Cathedral since that time.
  • 2006 (June): Sts Peter and Paul’s Old Cathedral Restoration was launched with an application to the Prime Minister of the time, Mr. John Howard, which resulted in the receiving of a grant of $1.5 million towards the restoration. This money was used to restore and repair the stonework and replace sandstone sections on the western façade. Work on the northern wall, the roof and the bell tower continues as a matter of urgency.