The Cathedral of St Michael and St John
Since its beginnings as a parish church in 1861, the Cathedral of St Michael and St John has been central to the religious life of the Catholic Diocese of Bathurst, which spans a wide area of New South Wales.
Renowned architect Edward Gell, who oversaw construction of the Cathedral, is believed to have crafted many of the distinctive sandstone carvings decorating the exterior of the building.
Consecrated in 1865, the Cathedral’s heritage value was recognised in June 2012, with its listing on the NSW State Heritage Register.
The Foundation Stone of St Michael’s, located on the corner George and Keppel Streets, the first Catholic Church in Bathurst, was laid by Bishop Polding in 1840. St Michael’s Church was in use by 1841 and building completed 1848, with leadlight windows. Due to subsidence, the building became unsafe within a decade.
In 1852, Bishop Polding came to Bathurst with a plan for a large Roman Catholic church. Fundraising began in 1854 for a new church, coordinated by Dean Grant.
In 1856, bushranger Ben Hall married Bridget Walsh in St Michael’s Church and in 1857, the Foundation Stone of the new church of St Michael and St John was laid by Bishop Polding.
On 11 April 1861 the dedication of the new St Michael and St John Church took place, by Father Phelan and Dean Grant.
The Dedication of the Cathedral took place on 29 June 1865 by Archbishop Polding. From this date forward, the Cathedral was known as the Cathedral of St Michael and St John. Matthew Quinn was consecrated as the first Bishop of Bathurst that same year.
In the 1890s, the grand high altar was sculpted by James Pearce, ecclesiastical sculptor of Dublin. The altar was constructed from Sicilian marble and was dedicated on 3 February 1897. Relics of Saints Laurence and Vincent were placed in the Altar and dedicated in honour of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, in memory of Saint Michael and St John. The grand stained glass windows in the Chancel were dedicated to the memory of the first Bishop of Bathurst, Matthew Quinn.
In 1904, Fr Joseph Slattery used the tower of the Cathedral in his wireless telegraphy experiments, which were among the first in Australia, to successfully apply Marconi’s overland transmission achievements. The waving of a white flag from back to St Stanislaus’ College was the indicator that the signal had been received from the College. Participants on the tower described the first sound as ‘weird and uncanny’.
The Requiem Mass and State funeral for Ben Chifley, former Prime Minister of Australia, was held in the Cathedral 17 June 1951.
From the mid-1950s to the 1960s, various extensions and refurbishments were planned in the lead up to the centenary of the dedication of the Cathedral.
On 23 August 1962, the Cathedral extensions were consecrated by Bishop Norton and restored to public worship. On 26 August, Cardinal Gilroy blessed the memorial stone marking restorations to the Cathedral and honouring Australians who died in two World Wars and in Korea. Extensions included the new baptistery, mortuary and Lady Chapel, provision for greater seating capacity with the opening of the Nave on the eastern wall and relocation of the confessional and side porch. Entrance to the Nun’s convent on the west was sealed off.
The demolition of adjacent St Mary’s convent and internal changes of Cathedral in response to the liturgical requirements after Vatican II were made in 1980.
In 2011, a Conservation Management Plan was prepared for the historic Catholic Cathedral of Bathurst. Soon after, Bishop Michael McKenna, eighth bishop of Bathurst, initiated the Cathedral Restoration Project.
In June 2012, the Cathedral of St Michael and St John was gazetted on the NSW State Heritage Register, Listing No. 01885.
The Cathedral Restoration Project was launched on 29 June 2012 – the anniversary of the dedication of the Cathedral, overseen by a management committee. The blessing of the Inauguration of the Restoration of Cathedral project took place on 7 September 2012.
The Cathedral was listed on the NSW Heritage Register in 2012.
In July 2013, the first phase of the restoration project was contracted to Rylstone Stone Restorations, led by Ron Lodewijks.
The bells from the Cathedral bell tower were removed from the tower in September 2013 and shipped to Whitechapel Foundry in England, where they were originally manufactured, to be repaired.
The bell tower was fully restored, with all brickwork re-pointed, by December 2015. The bells were returned to the tower on 3 December 2015 and the tower blessed by Bishop McKenna on 10 December 2015.
By July 2020, all the repointing of brickwork and the replacement of worn external sandstone was completed. This marked a major milestone, culminating in more than five years of painstaking, detailed work, with all of the mortar of the original brickwork of the Cathedral being replaced by hand and many pieces of hand carved sandstone replaced.
The final stages of the Cathedral Restoration Project involved extensive upgrades to the Cathedral landscape, repainting of the interior of the Cathedral and relocation of the entry to the Cathedral.
The fully restored Cathedral of St Michael and St John was reopened for public worship on 23rd March 2021.
Patron Saints: St Michael and St John
Saint Michael the Archangel is referenced in the Old Testament and has been part of Christian teachings since the earliest times. In Catholic tradition, he acts as the defender of the Church and chief opponent of Satan, and assists people at the hour of death.
The feast day of the archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael is 29 September.
St John the Baptist was a contemporary of Christ who was known for evangelisation and for Baptising Our Lord.
John the Baptist was born, through the intercession of God, to Zachariah and Elizabeth. According to Scriptures, the Angel Gabriel visited Elizabeth and Zachariah to tell them they would have a son and that they should name him John.
When Elizabeth was pregnant with John, she was visited by Mary, and John leapt in her womb. This revealed to Elizabeth that the child Mary carried was to be the Son of God.
John began public ministry around 30 AD, and was known for attracting large crowds across the province of Judaea and around the Jordan River. When Jesus came to him to be baptised, John recognised him and said, “It is I who need baptism from you.”
Jesus told John to baptise him anyway, which he did, whereupon the heavens opened, and the Spirit of God was seen like a dove. The voice of God spoke, saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
John instructed his followers to turn to Christ, calling him the “Lamb of God” and these people were among the first Christians.
Following his Baptism of Christ, John’s popularity grew so much that he alarmed King Herod. Herod ordered him arrested and imprisoned.
John the Baptist died sometime between 33 and 36 AD. His feast day is 24 June and the anniversary of his death is 29 August.
Mass is livestreamed from the Cathedral of St Michael and St John for specific Masses and special occasions such as ordinations, and milestone events which are advertised and promoted via this website and the Diocesan social media channels.
In the event of COVID-19 lockdown, Mass is also livestreamed as required.
Photos of the Cathedral of St Michael and St John can be accessed via Flickr.