A Gothic Vision: James Goold, William Wardell and the Building of St Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne, 1850–97

Paola Colleoni

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St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne is among the largest Gothic revival churches built in the nineteenth century, matching in size the medieval cathedrals that inspired its design. The history of the commission reveals the role played by the first Roman Catholic bishop of Melbourne, James Alipius Goold, who was acquainted with A. W. N. Pugin’s theories of the Gothic revival and who promoted the construction of churches true to Pugin’s principles. After two failed attempts at smaller structures, and in the wake of the gold rush in Victoria, Goold in 1858 commissioned the newly arrived architect William Wilkinson Wardell to design a cathedral of unprecedented monumental proportions. Wardell’s design, rooted in an archaeologically correct approach to medieval precedent, was widely praised by colonial society, which favoured massive buildings reminiscent of those found in Europe. Furthermore, with its French-inspired apse and radiating chapels, St Patrick’s highlighted a connection to Catholic religious tradition particularly resonant for its largely Irish congregation. The design stands apart from High Victorian developments in the Gothic revival seen in England in the 1850s, as colonial patrons favoured a more conservative approach. St Patrick’s exemplifies several of the trends that influenced the revival of Gothic architecture in the Australian colonies, while also representing the desire of the Catholic Church to establish its position throughout the wider British empire.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)227-260
Number of pages34
JournalArchitectural History
Publication statusPublished - 7 Nov 2022


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