St. Patrick's Cathedral, Parramatta

I have been at a wonderful conference on Art and Theology for most of this week, and have done and heard some really amazing things.
Late yesterday afternoon we went on a guided tour of St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Parramatta, and it was really an amazing time. I had heard much about the church and the beauty of its restoration after it was gutted by fire some years ago. But I wasn't prepared to be so dazzled by the place. Generally I am a critic of church renovation and contemporary worship spaces. But this really is a transcendent religious space, and it inspired in me a prayerful, reverent attitude. It is also a place I plan on returning to again and again and taking my friends. Almost enough to make you convert to Catholicism.
So much of the building and its artwork is incredible, but I was taken by the piece of sculpture that hangs above the altar in the new part of the church. This remarkable piece is not a crown of thorns (though it looks like one). Instead it is meant to be the halo that surrounds Christ - certain points of the sculpture are solid gold.
The crucifix is wonderful, naturally.
The altar in the old part of the church was also quite breathtaking. This whole area is lit very dimly, and always seemed to be filled with people praying quietly. The tabernacle is quite fascinating, and very modern. Without being irreligious, I thought the great silver egg looked vaguely like something from Dr. Seuss. It worked, though.
Being the dyed-in-the-wool ritualist that I am, I was much taken with the display of the sacramental oils in a special lit cabinet. I thought it was a stroke of genius to bring the business of the church right to the very forefront, indeed, to highlight it, quite literally.
But without a doubt the real highlight of the place was the exquisite 500 year-old statue of the Madonna and Child. This statue is enough to bring anyone to their knees, and is without a doubt the most beautiful statue of the Virgin in all of Australia.
I understand that the cathedral hosts a Taize service once a month, so I must see if I can get along. I'd love to be singing and praying in that space.


Anonymous said…
Can you tell us about the confronting painting of Christ crucified(?). It is in an alcove there in St Patrick's Parramatta. I saw it St Pat's Parramatta when I visited there two years ago, and would like to make a critique of it for a Studies of Religion assignment. I am in Year 11.
I donot know the name or any details about it. I have a picture I took of it at that time.
Walter Mason said…
Gosh, I don't know.
I'll go and check it out again, as I really don't remember it.

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