Exploring Canberra: one cathedral short…

St Christopher’s RC Cathedral, Manuka, Canberra, Australia
St Paul’s Church, Manuka, Canberra, Australia

I knew from a tablet at St John’s Church, Reid that there is no Anglican Cathedral at Rottenbury Hill in Canberra, though its site has been held since 1927 [View from the platform constructed for the dedication ceremony for the site of St. Marks Anglican Cathedral on Rottenbury Hill, Canberra, 8th May 1927 [picture] (nla.gov.au)], and I discovered that Canberra has a Catholic cathedral in a suburb called Manuka (named after the flower, Leptospermum scoparium). 

On the way to the Catholic cathedral through the Canberra suburbs, misdirected by a bus driver, I came across the Anglican Church, St Paul’s, an immaculate brick essay in Art Deco with Gothic hints by the Sydney architects Burcham Clamp & Son, begun in 1939 and most recently extended in 2001.  The Anglican diocese remains based in Goulburn, where there is a particularly fine cathedral of St Saviour (1884) by Edmund Blacket, one of his best works.  As a result, St Paul’s, though only a parish church, often hosts civic and government services.  St Paul’s has Canberra’s only ring of eight bells for change ringing and its largest pipe organ.

St Christopher’s Catholic Cathedral is a few hundred yards away, a Romanesque design by Clement Glancy Snr, begun in 1939 and extended by his son, also Clement Glancy, in 1973 when the previous Catholic cathedral in Goulburn was demoted.  St Christopher’s is the largest place of worship in Canberra, so it vies with St Paul’s Church to receive major services and events.  This building is not the intended design and doesn’t stand on the intended site of the planned Catholic Cathedral for Canberra:  GC447YC Canberra Cathedrals (Multi-cache) in Australian Capital Territory, Australia created by Pacmania (geocaching.com).

Meanwhile Rottenbury Hill, the site designated in 1927 for an Anglican cathedral in the national capital, has never been used for its intended purpose.  Instead, there are plans, apparently, for a Southern Cross Sanctuary:  Southern Cross Sanctuary | civicarts.

The story is one of masterly clerical inactivity:  http://anglicanhistory.org/aus/campbell_canberra2002.pdf.  Successive synods of the Church of England in Australia (since 1962 the Anglican Church of Australia) have repeatedly kicked into touch discussion of how a bishopric for the capital would fit into the Australian hierarchy, as well as the practical question of how an actual cathedral would be financed and built.

At the outset it fell to the then Bishop of Goulburn, Lewis Bostock Radford (1869-1937), to raise questions about this project in Synod because the New Capital Territory lay within his vast diocese.

He spent much of his career as bishop urging his fellow clergy to decide what to do while distancing himself from taking responsibility for a nebulous and unwieldy scheme that was beyond his capacity as an individual.

He retired at the end of 1933 and died in England four years later.

His ashes lie in St John’s Church, Reid, waiting to be interred in the new national cathedral if and when it is built.

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