St Mary's Cathedral
Brief Background The history of the Catholic Church in Western Australia began soon after
the arrival of settlers to the Swan River Colony in 1829. By the 1840's there was an estimated 100 Catholics
living in the Perth area, but no priest. In 1841 a local school teacher, Robert D'Arcy made a request to the
Church authorities in Sydney for a priest to be sent to Perth. In 1843 approval for the request was granted
from Rome ( Vatican ) and Father John Brady, Father John Joostens (Belgian priest) and Patrick O'Reilly (a
Catechist) were all sent to Fremantle on the ship 'Water Witch" of the same year. Click here for more History of the Catholic Church in WA.
Prime LocationSt Mary's Cathedral is located in Victoria Square in Perth, Western Australia, one of the highest points in the city. Originally
known as Church Hill, the prime location was intended for the Colony's Anglican Church, however many within
the congregation complained that it was too far from the towns centre to travel. As a result the land was
turned over to the Roman Catholic Church.
Built By Benedictine Monks On February the 8th, 1863 the foundation stone was laid by Bishop
Salvado of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (St Mary's Cathedral). The
Gothic style Cathedral was designed by architect and master mason Brother Joseph Ascione and built by
Benedictine monks. Brother Ascione was a Benedictine Oblate from the city of Naples in Italy. Each morning the tireless monks would walk six miles from Subiaco to the
building site and work a full day before making the long walk back to Subiaco after dark. The cathedral was
blessed and opened on January 29th, 1865.
A second cathedral was built on the same site in the 1920's with the intention of linking the two Cathedrals.
However, due to the Depression and the onset of World War II, funds were not available to complete the project. In
1968, during the Meckering earthquake , a large cross fell 30m to the ground and various decorative items on the
cathedral's spire were damaged. Today the unfinished work (iron bars) can be seen at the eastern end of the
cathedral. The second cathedral was designed by Mr Michael Cavanagh in the English style of perpendicular
Gothic. The building stones were quarried locally from the same quarry which supplied the stone for the Perth
General Post Office. The sanctuary mosaics designs were based on the ancient Irish Book of Kells. The stained
glass windows were designed by John Hardman of Birmingham, in England.