The church has always considered art and music as instruments that can be used to draw people closer to God and to express the beauty of God in some ways. Thus, the cultural and material heritage of the Catholic church is a reminder of eternity and testament to the faith of those who created the works.
The first church was erected in Sydney in the 1830s after plans to start building began in the 1820s. Unfortunately, the church got burnt in 1865. The oldest surviving churches are St John’s, Richmond, Tasmania which was completed in 1837 and St Brigid’s in The Rocks, Sydney which was completed between 1834 and 1835.
Most of the early churches adopted the Gothic revival architecture style which was started by Augustus Pugin in England. In fact, William Wardell, his disciple was the one who designed two of the premier Catholic cathedrals in Australia, the new St Mary’s in Sydney and, St Patrick’s in Melbourne. St Mary was started in 1865 and finished in 1928 with spires added to it in 2000. It is built with Sydney sandstone and has a Medieval French style.
New Norcia and “Catholic complexes.”
New Norcia is the only town in Australia with a monastery and has a church, abbey, a hostel, boys’ and girl’s college, and ancillary buildings. It has one of the biggest catholic complexes. Other country towns and older suburbs also have smaller complexes that include church, presbytery, schools, and convent. Usually, the convent has the most imposing architecture.
Stained Glass and Church interiors
The Church interior usually creates a reverent and peaceful setting suitable for mass with stained glass windows telling biblical stories and that of saints. Some of the most elaborate stained glass is that of St Mary’s Cathedral designed by Hardman Studios and that of St Patrick’s in Melbourne with its cycle of themes from the bible.
Perhaps the most famous church interior is that of Beagle Bay mission with its pearl-shell altar. While the remodelling of church interiors after the Second Vatican Council is seen by many traditionalists as vandalism, some churches were well restored. A good example is St Patrick’s Church Hill in Sydney.
The paintings of Justin O’Brien usually focus on biblical themes and look similar to medieval Italian paintings of the same themes. In 1951, his painting, The Virgin Enthroned, was the winner of the first Blake Prize for religious art. Roy De Maistre also painted some fantastic works like the Stations of the Cross in Westminster Cathedral after his conversion.
There are many other painters who are either Catholics or found inspiration in biblical themes.
Mary MacKillop is one of the sculptured in the catholic church with her statutes in Melbourne General Cemetery, Adelaide, Brisbane, Fitzroy, St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney, and North Sydney.
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