Cathedral Church of St Francis Xavier
This Cathedral is dedicated to Saint Francis Xavier patron of missionary countries and of our first bishop, Francis Murphy (1844-58), pictured right.
Work began in 1851 using the design submitted by colonial Architect, Richard Lambeth. However, the discovery of gold in Victoria lured both the architect and most of the colony’s labour force to seek their fortunes interstate. Bishop Murphy was directed again to Charles Hansom (1817-88), an English architect and pupil of Augustus Welby Pugin the Gothic revivalist (1812-52). Hansom produced plans for a modest cathedral in the early English Gothic style (1189-1307). His plans were constrained by the already existing site.
The church was designed so it could be built in stages, as money became available. This was necessary as the colony of South Australia and Catholics in particular were not wealthy. William Leigh, a friend of Bishop Murphy, have a generous bequest. This enabled the bishop to begin work on the construction of his cathedral. A testament to this friendship exists in the gift of a finely crafted chalice that bears the inscription, ‘Remember, O Lord your servants and handmaids. To the very dear Bishop, Most Rev. Francis Murphy, Bishop of Adelaide, may this chalice be a reminder of benefits and hospitality in Christ, and of love and fraternity, most humbly William Leigh from Woodchester in England 1854.’
Fr Michael Ryan, in the absence of Bishop Murphy, laid the foundation stone 17 March 1856. He opened and blessed stage one of the cathedral on 11 July 1858. This consisted of a small sanctuary, the central nave to the first five arches and two narrow small aisles. Sadly, Bishop Murphy did not live to see his dream realised. He died on 27 April 1858. His body is buried beneath the sanctuary of his cathedral.
As with most cathedrals, the construction of this building was slow. The first extension, which included a sanctuary, a Lady Chapel (now used as a sacristy), a side chapel and a sacristy, was completed on 11 November 1860.
Peter Paul Pugin, the son of AWN Pugin, designed the extensions to the eastern side of the nave. Bishop (later Archbishop) Reynolds (1873-93) dedicated the extensions on 15 August 1887. They also included a second story to the sacristy and three confessionals set in graceful niches.
The architect was E J Woods of Adelaide.
Archbishop Spence (1915-34) laid the foundation stone for the complementary western side aisle. The cathedral was extended by two extra arches, the narthex, the choir gallery and and the baptistery. This extension was dedicated to 23 April, 1926 and built by W H Bago, a local Architect.
In 1996 the tower was completed. This enabled Archbishop Faulkner (1985-01) to dedicate the Cathedral on 11 August, 1996.
The large Murphy bell of 1867 hangs in the tower with twelve other bells that were blessed on 17 April, 1996.
Source: Brochure produced by Friends of the Cathedral of St Francis Xavier 2010.