Discovering the St Francis Xavier Cathedral

Set in Adelaide, the St Francis Xavier Cathedral is a prominent landmark in the city. The Romanic Catholic cathedral has been built in a Gothic Revival style from the Early English era. Today, it stands at 36 metres high and measures 56.5 metres in length. It dates back to 1856, but real construction on the tower didn’t begin until 1887. Despite the early start, it wasn’t finished until 1996, more than one hundred years later.

Who was St. Francis Xavier and why is there a church named after him?

St. Frances Xavier was the patron saint of missionaries and a founder of the Jesuit Order. He was born in Navarre (modern-day Spain) in 1506 to a noble family but was convinced by his friend Ignatius of Loyola to join him on his mission. This began his life’s goal of converting as many people as he could and it’s said that throughout his short lifetime – he died in his late 40’s- he baptised 30,000 people.  During his life, he travelled throughout Asia and India, predominantly in Goa where his body now rests. He was chosen as the patron of this cathedral because he is both a patron of the Church of Australia, as well as the personal patron saint of Adelaide’s first bishop – Francis Murphy. The bishop led a similar life and was extremely passionate about providing a place of worship to his flock.

St Francis Xavier Cathedral

Special Features of St Francis Xavier Cathedral

Like most of the cathedrals in Australia, the St Francis Xavier Cathedral boasts a number of memorable features and add-ons that visitors can admire while in the area.

To the north-westerly corner of the building, there is a statue of St John the Baptist that was carved in 1925 in the sun-soaked hills of Tuscany. It is distinguishable by its picture of the baptism of Jesus.

Elsewhere, the lady chapel altar in the south-west part of the cathedral is made from impressive Carrara marble. All around, there are encrusted panels of lapis lazuli that hark back to when it was dedicated in 1954.

There are a set of bronze statues that can be found on the western side of the cathedral – one of Joseph, Jesus, and the flight into Egypt. To the front, at the southern end, there are lancet windows featuring depictions of St Patrick and St Lawrence, as well as images of Mary and Jesus.

Moving around to the eastern side of the building, there is an entire statue of St Patrick, who was the patron of the Archdiocese of Adelaide. Around the statue, there are prevalent Celtic symbols.

Throughout its history, the cathedral has been home to three organs. The first, which was erected in 1869 by Johann Wolff, boasted two pedals and was manual. In 1926, this was replaced by J.E. Dodd with two manuals – it was then rebuilt in 1954.

There are many things to see and do in Adelaide, and the St Francis Xavier Cathedral is one of them. Visitors can marvel at the incredible architecture that has gone into the magnificent building, and learn about its lengthy history.

When wandering around the cathedral itself, look out for the selection of statues and images that depict various scenes from both the bible and the religious landscape in Australia during the time the cathedral was erected. It is an important part of Australia’s religious history and well worth a visit.

History of the St. Francis Xavier Cathedral

The history of Adelaide’s St. Francis Xavier Cathedral is a long one, primarily driven by the spirit of one bishop Francis Murphy who was committed to building a church for his followers. The first church in Adelaide was St. Patrick constructed in 1845. It was Dr Francis Murphy that then sought to build something grander for the Catholics in the area, which at the time were manly Irish immigrants. After relying on the donations from said parishioners, he travelled to England to raise funds for a bigger church.

Here he met a benefactor named William Leigh and he travelled back home where construction began. This came to a temporary halt in the early 1850s due to many of the Irish immigrants travelling down to Melbourne for the gold rush, however, there were some followers who sent back gold to Dr Murphy, which enable them with more funds to continue building in 1854. A few months before the church was ready to be consecrated, the man who had worked so hard to have it built, Dr Murphy passed away. But the story doesn’t end there! The church wasn’t actually finished until over 100 years later in 1996 when the last bells were added.

Interesting Facts about the Cathedral 

St. Francis Xavier Cathedral is the oldest cathedral of its kind in Australia and often holds important events as well as weddings, baptisms and daily masses.

On the western side of the church, there is a statue of Australia’s first saint Mary Mackillop, which was unveiled in 2009. The statue shows Mary Mackillop holding hands with a little girl and a young Aboriginal boy.

The Cathedral is regarded as being the first church to hold a blessing over a new app that was created for the Adelaide National Trust. The app allows viewers to follow a walking trail that Mary Mackillop took and begins and ends at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral.

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