St Andrew's Cathedral is the cathedral church of the Anglican Diocese of Sydney in the Anglican Church of Australia. The cathedral is the seat of the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney and Metropolitan of New South Wales, the Most Reverend Glenn Davies, elected August 2013. The dean, appointed in May 2015, is the Very Revd Kanishka Raffel.

Located in central Sydney, the cathedral is one of the city's finest examples of Gothic Revival architecture. Designed by Edmund Blacket, it was ready for services and consecrated in 1868, making it the oldest cathedral in Australia. Joan Kerr described St Andrew's as "a perfect example of the colonial desire to reproduce England in Australia in the mid nineteenth century."[4]

The cathedral holds services every day, including choral services on Sundays and several times a week during school term. There is also a healing service, Bible studies and prayer meetings. St Andrew's has a cathedral choir of men and boys, as well as a company of bell ringers. The notable pipe organ has been restored and is regularly used for recitals and concerts.

St Andrew's Cathedral is listed on various federal, state, and local government heritage registers.[1][2][3]

Building and architecture

Macquarie and Greenway

W.M. Cowper, Dean 1858–1902

Lachlan Macquarie, an early Governor of New South Wales, had grand plans for the city of Sydney. He foresaw that Sydney would grow into a large city requiring a large cathedral. With the architect Francis Greenway, who had been transported to Sydney for forgery, the governor planned a church 200 feet square and probably with the seating and galleries facing inward from three sides. The foundation stone was laid with full ceremony on 31 August 1819. Only a few foundations were laid, however, before the plan was abandoned. Macquarie was severely criticised[who?] for planning beyond the colony's means.

Broughton and Hume

Bishop William Grant Broughton, who was consecrated as a bishop in 1836, had a new foundation stone laid in 1837. The plans, prepared by the architect James Hume, were of much more modest proportions and were for a traditional cruciform church in the Gothic style. The designs, dating from the early phase of Gothic Revival architecture, did not show a great expertise in the handling of the particular architectural vocabulary. Only one notable section was completed, the façade of the south transept. However, the foundations were laid and some of the walls were constructed up to a height of about 15 feet.

The west front demonstrates Blacket's mastery of Gothic design.

Edmund T. Blacket

In 1842 Edmund Thomas Blacket presented himself to the bishop with a letter from the Archbishop of Canterbury recommending his talent as an architect and having equal facility in both the Classical and the Gothic style. He was eventually to become known as the Wren of Sydney, having designed two universities, three cathedrals and fifty or more parish churches as well as banks, offices, bridges, mansions and countless shops, cottages and terraced houses. Blacket became the official Colonial Architect from 1849 to 1854.

Blacket was an inventive and stylish Gothic Revival architect who utilised the forms of English Medieval prototypes reproduced in the books of his architectural library to produce designs which, although archeologically "correct", are often highly original. This was just as well, because the task that he inherited from James Hume was not an easy one.

It took some convincing to get the bishop to accept his deviations from the original design. The problem was how to make an imposing cathedral on foundations which were only the size of a large English parish church. Taking into account what Hume had done and the fact that some of Hume's rather amateurish window tracery was already in place, Blacket designed the cathedral in the style known as Perpendicular Gothic, used extensively at the cathedrals of Canterbury, Winchester and York.

Perpendicular style

Looking east during the restoration of 2000, with scaffolding in front of the east window

With the repetition of forms and the strongly vertical lines characteristic of Perpendicular Gothic, Blacket succeeded in creating a building which, despite its small size, is nevertheless imposing and of harmonious proportions. The western front with its layered decoration is a majestic composition, based loosely on that of York Minster. The strongly projecting rectangular buttresses, which transform by stages into lofty octagonally-sectioned pinnacles, and the complex molding around the portals casts varied shadows in the bright Australian sunlight. Kinsela describes it as “a grand façade with superb towers…Covered with a profusion of ornanament, blind traceries and tiny attached pinnacles, in a light-hearted yet elegant manner.”[5]

Bishop Broughton did not live to consecrate St Andrew's. He died while on a trip to England in 1853 and is buried in Canterbury Cathedral. The second Bishop of Sydney, Frederick Barker, consecrated the completed building on St Andrew's Day, 30 November 1868.


The interior is a harmonious composition in Perpendicular Gothic. Although the building is small, it is given a sense of grandeur by the proportions of the arcade and clerestory, the richness of the moldings, the loftiness of the hammerbeam roof with its blue and vermillion decoration, and the decorative details, which include carved stone ribbons around the nave piers, bearing the names of notables in the early Sydney church.

The stone used throughout is Sydney sandstone. The chancel has a newly restored floor in ornate pattern set with marble and intaglio tiles in the Cosmati style by Fields of London, created under the direction of Gilbert Scott. The rest of the building is paved with encaustic tiles of red and black with small intaglio designs by Mintons of Stoke-on-Trent.

The Resurrection
One of the series of 27 windows witnessing the life and teachings of Jesus, by Hardman & Co. of Birmingham


The reredos was commissioned by the third Bishop of Sydney, Bishop Barry, and carved of translucent cream English alabaster by the sculptor Thomas Earp, under the supervision of the well-known Gothic Revival architect J. L. Pearson in 1886. The subject matter of the three pictorial panels, as originally created, were: at the centre, the Crucifixion; to the left, the Resurrection; to the right, the Ascension. To either side were the figures of Moses and Elijah. In 1887 there was objection at synod to the representational nature of the reredos and in particular to the central Crucifixion on the grounds that it might be seen as idolatorous. The Crucifixion was replaced, at the expense of the objectors, by the present scene of the Transfiguration. Both depictions of Moses, like the famous sculpture by Michelangelo in San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome show him with horns, a symbolic attribute due to a mistranslation in the Vulgate Bible.

The original furniture of the chancel, of which most remains, is of different dates, but for the most part in the Gothic style. The original choir stalls, of dark English oak, are particularly fine, having large poppy heads, each richly carved with a different foliate design. These were removed under Dean Phillip Jensen, but were reinstated following his departure.


The lower stained glass windows are one of the earliest complete cycles of glass by Hardman of Birmingham and demonstrate the skilful employment of primary colour, elegant design and narrational intelligence that is typical of the work of John Hardman Powell. They represent the life and the parables of Jesus.

The seven-light and four-tiered east window is a complex composition showing scenes in the life of Christ at which the Apostle Andrew was present, such as the Feeding of the Five Thousand. The west window has tiers of Apostles.

Orientation and reorientation

St Andrew's Cathedral is built to the cruciform shape traditional of Christian churches and symbolic of the faith. The body of the cathedral, or nave, with lower aisles on either side, is crossed by the transept, forming a chancel for the seating of clergy and choir at the eastern end. The sides of the choir are traditionally known as cantoris, the side of the precentor, or cantor, and decani, the side of the dean, the senior clerical appointee within the cathedral. See Cathedral architecture and Cathedral diagram.

The East End, with the entrance that was made in 1941

It is customary for cathedrals to be orientated on an east-west axis with the main door to the west and the sanctuary to the east. St Andrew's conformed to that tradition. But a major thoroughfare, George Street, runs by the eastern rather than the western end, making the main entrance less accessible. It also meant that when an electric tram system was installed in the street, the noise frequently drowned out the service of Holy Communion.

In 1941 the interior was therefore reoriented. A new raised chancel floor was built in the west end, the west door was permanently closed and the reredos was placed immediately in front of it. All the internal fittings of the chancel were relocated, the positioning of the reredos right against the wall creating some extra space. There was a claim that the acoustics were improved but this is spurious.[citation needed] While, on one hand, the trams would not have seemed so loud, being more remote, the negative effects on the internal acoustics were significant and a very large number of choristers were employed to make themselves heard.

In 1999–2000 major conservation and restoration work was undertaken to restore the original internal layout, whereby the sanctuary was relocated at the cathedral's eastern end. This was achieved under deanship of the Very Reverend Boak Jobbins. As part of the reorientation and conservation, the Whitely organ was removed from the north transept gallery, thus revealing one of the larger of Hardman's windows including, notably and somewhat controversially, the Crucifixion, the only depiction in the entire cathedral, together with the crucifixions of Saints Andrew and Peter.


To avoid any potential confusion of the communion table with an altar, the strongly Evangelical diocesan leadership decided that the communion table should be placed in a more forward position in the chancel and that it should be easily portable in order that it might be removed when not required for Holy Communion, to clear a space for presentations and musical performances. A new table, of a simple, square and modern design, was installed. It was suggested by some traditional Anglicans that the older table, with its ornate carving, should be retained in its usual place in front of the reredos. It is not unusual for cathedrals in England, because of their vast size, to have tables in two positions. But as this was not the case in Sydney it was decided to abandon the old table rather than maintaining it at the risk of it being associated with the "High Altar" of Roman Catholic and many Anglican churches (the communion table in an Anglican church in Sydney must be of wood and be able to be moved). In addition, a major consideration in not retaining the old table was that it was riddled with termite damage, a perpetual problem in the centre of Sydney.[citation needed]

Since the departure of Phillip Jensen, the old choir stalls have been reinstalled in their former position, and the more modern temporary ones are not in use. The eagle lecterns have been reinstated. The mobile "holy table, known as "Meals-on-Wheels",[citation needed] is still in use.

One of the treasures of the cathedral is the Great Bible of 1539 (printed at the date when Henry VIII ordered that every church should have a Bible in the English language). It was donated to St Andrew's by the church of St Andrew's Barnwell in Northamptonshire, United Kingdom, in thanksgiving for the Australia's generosity to post war-Britain. The prominent positioning of the Bible (in its glass case) at the side of the reredos is illustrative of the Sydney diocese's emphasis on belief in the Bible as the authoritative "Word of God". The emphasis of Sydney Anglican theology on an understanding of scripture, as against experiential spirituality, is confirmed by the apparent precedence of the book over the sacrament.


Organ by Hill, 1866

Pipe organ

In 1866 a pipe organ by the prominent English organ builders William Hill & Sons was installed with a case to Edmund Blacket's design and richly decorated organ pipes. It was placed in the south transept. The cathedral's first organist was Montague Younger.

In 1932 an organ by John Whitely was placed opposite in the north transept. In the 1950s the instruments were amalgamated to be played from a single console, thus constituting the largest church organ in Australia.[citation needed] There was a further rationalisation of the organs in 1998 with a restoration by the Canadian firm of Orgues Létourneau. The Whitely was removed from the north transept gallery. The organ, as reconstituted by Letourneau, consists of four manuals with mechanical action, comprising the rebuilt Hill organ, together with the best of the Whitely pipework.

There are regular Thursday afternoon recitals by Australian and international organists, commencing at 1:10 pm and usually lasting for 30 or 40 minutes. These recitals have been held for over 40 years.

Organists and Masters of the Choristers

Ordinal Name Term start Term end Notes
1 Montague Younger 1868 1899 [6]
2 Joseph Massey 1900 1923
3 F. Mewton 1923 1926
4 Thomas Haigh 1927 1927
5 Thomas Beckett 1928 1947
6 Edgar Bainton 1948 1948 Acting
7 Hugh Bancroft 1948 1953
8 Kenneth Long 1953 1957
9 Mervyn John Byers 1957 1965
10 Michael Hemans 1966 1980
11 Michael Deasey 1981 2005
12 Ross Cobb 2005 present [7]


Memorial hatchment to Edmund Blacket

The Cathedral Choir of men and boys began in the 1820s, prior to the building of the previous wooden cathedral adjacent to the current site. This makes the cathedral choir the oldest continuous musical institution in Australia. There have been several notable alumni of the choir, two of the most prominent non-musicians being Australia's first prime minister, Sir Edmund Barton, and the pioneer aviator Sir Charles Kingsford Smith. In 1885 St Andrew's Cathedral School was founded by the third Bishop of Sydney, Bishop Barry, for the purpose of providing choristers to sing the daily services at the cathedral. For many years the enrolment stood at 46 boys and the headmaster was also the Master of Choristers and precentor of the cathedral. The school began to expand in 1941 and for many years in the latter part of the 20th century the enrolment stood at 700 and catered for boys from Years 3 to 12. In 1999 girls were admitted to senior years and in 2008 St Andrew's Cathedral School became fully co-educational from kindergarten.

In 2004 the former dean altered the form of service in the cathedral in keeping with his inclination to rationalise the worship on "Sydney Anglican" principles. This had decreased the formal participation of the cathedral choir and has been met by some controversy.[8]

Since 2005, the Director of Music has been Ross Cobb, previously Director of Music at Christ Church, Clifton in Bristol, England. He is an Associate of Kings College London and holds a Bachelor of Music from the Royal Academy of Music and Kings College, London.[7]

Since the 1970s the choir has regularly toured abroad. The most recent international tour was to Europe in July 2008 and was made to mark the 140th anniversary of the choir. The choir sang in Bristol Cathedral (with the world-renowned Black Dyke Colliery Band), Wells Cathedral, Bath Abbey and St Paul's Cathedral, London in the presence of the Australian High Commissioner. The choir also sang for the first time in the Basilica of San Marco in Venice as well as the Anglican churches of Venice and Florence.

The choir sings at the morning "Sunday Church"[9] and evensong on Monday (trebles only) and Thursday nights (full choir).


St Andrew's has a peal of 12 bells cast by John Taylor & Co. of Loughborough in England and installed in 1965 to the memory of Ernest Samuel Trigg. The tenor weighs 29​14 cwt and the lightest 6​12 cwt. They are rung by members of The Australian and New Zealand Association of Bellringers each Sunday morning and on practice nights.


St Andrew's and Sydney Town Hall, circa 1900


The following material were used in the construction of the cathedral:

Building section Material Notes
Building Sydney sandstone
Roof Welsh slate
Roof timber
Lower windows Hardman of Birmingham, 1861-8 east and west windows, transept windows
Nave clerestory windows designer, Norman Carter, 1953-4
Chancel and transept clerestory windows various, including Lyon and Cottier, Falconer and Ashwin and English firms
Floor Minton intaglio tiles
Chancel floor Cosmateque tiles by Fields of London
Pulpit and Choir stalls English Oak
Reredos English Alabaster
Pulpit Otago sandstone and Gabo Island granite

Heritage listing

The cathedral is part of the Town Hall Group, a group of heritage-listed buildings in that part of Sydney. Apart from the cathedral, the group includes the Sydney Town Hall (designed by Wilson and Bond, built 1886–89), the Queen Victoria Building (designed by George McRae, built 1893–98), the former Gresham Hotel (149 York Street, designed by J. Kirkpatrick, built c. 1890) and the former Bank of New South Wales (facade only), 485 George Street (designed by Varney Parkes, built 1894).

On 3 September 2004 the cathedral and chapter house were listed on the New South Wales State Heritage Register with the following statement of significance:[2][3]

St Andrew's Cathedral is one of the finest Gothic-revival church buildings in New South Wales and is the pre-eminent church building within the Sydney Anglican Diocese. The building represents the aspirations of the Colony and was the focus of much of Sydney life both during and after its construction. The completion of the Cathedral building was a major achievement for both the church and the City of Sydney. The building has high spiritual significance for both Anglicans and the wider community. It has been the 'State' church for many major events. The building group has high aesthetic significance as a finely crafted and detailed group of structures. The Cathedral interior has high aesthetic value, even in its altered form, containing much of the original furniture and fittings including the Hill organ. The Cathedral contains a very fine and significant set of stained glass windows that predominantly date from the time of construction. The Cathedral has historic significance as it has reflected the growth of the Anglican Church and changes in Anglicanism and for its associations with prominent church and civic persons.

— Statement of significance, New South Wales State Heritage Register.

On 21 March 1978 the cathedral and chapter house are listed on the (now defunct) Register of the National Estate.[1][10] St Andrew's has a National Trust of Australia heritage listing as being a building of national significance.[citation needed]

Deans of St Andrew's

The following individuals have served as Deans of St Andrew's Cathedral:[11]

Ordinal Name Term start Term end Notes
1 William Macquarie Cowper 1858 1902
- Post vacant 1902 1912
2 Albert Edward Talbot 1912 1936
3 Stuart Barton Babbage 1947 1953 Afterwards Dean of Melbourne, 1953
4 Eric Arthur Pitt 1953 1962
5 Arthur William Goodwin-Hudson 1962 1964
6 Francis Oag Hulme-Moir 1965 1967
7 Archibald Wentworth Morton 1967 1973
8 Lance R. Shilton 1973 1988
9 Kenneth Herbert Short 1989 1992
10 Boak Alexander Jobbins 1992 2002
11 Phillip David Jensen 2003 2014 [8]
12 Kanishka Raffel 2016 present

Picture gallery

See also


  1. ^ a b c "St Andrews Anglican Cathedral and Chapter House (Place ID 1905)". Australian Heritage Database. Department of the Environment. 21 March 1978. Retrieved 1 December 2017. 
  2. ^ a b c "St. Andrew's Anglican Cathedral and Chapter House". New South Wales State Heritage Register. Office of Environment and Heritage. Retrieved 1 December 2017. 
  3. ^ a b c "St Andrew's Cathedral Group Including Interiors, Courtyard Spaces and Forecourts". New South Wales State Heritage Register. Office of Environment and Heritage. Retrieved 1 December 2017. 
  4. ^ Kerr, Joan (1983). Our Great Victorian Architect, Edmund Thomas Blacket. National Trust of Australia. ISBN 0-909723-17-6. 
  5. ^ Kinsela, Joseph (1986). St Andrew's Cathedral, a pictorial History and Guide. Argyle Press. ISBN 0-909625-95-6. 
  6. ^ "Montague Younger" (PDF). First organist of St Andrew's Cathedral, Sydney. 
  7. ^ a b "Cobb follows call to the Cathedral". Sydney Anglicans. 
  8. ^ a b "Peter Phillips is conductor of one of the world's most famous choirs, The Tallis Scholars, as well as being a regular columnist for The Spectator. In his most recent column he launched a blistering attack on the Sydney Anglicans, claiming the Jensen brothers are vandalising Anglican music and culture in Sydney..." The Religion Report, ABC Radio National, 30 January 2008, accessed 9 October 2008
  9. ^ Sunday Church
  10. ^ The Heritage of Australia, Macmillan Company, 1981, p. 2/100
  11. ^ "History: Dean of Sydney" (PDF). Sydney Cathedral. Diocese of Sydney. Retrieved 25 December 2012. [permanent dead link]


 This article incorporates text by New South Wales State Heritage Register available under the CC BY 3.0 AU licence.

Further reading

  • Johnstone, The Venerable S.M. (1968). The Book of St Andrew's Cathedral Sydney (revised ed.). Angus and Robertson. 

External links