21-06-1871: Roman Catholic Mortuary Chapel at the Melbourne General Cemetery.

The Argus, Melbourne, Wednesday 21st June 1871, page 5.

 “The Melbourne Cemetery has received another adornment, now that the new mortuary chapel in the Roman Catholic portion of the ground has been completed. This elegant structure, of which the sanctuary only is wanting, is of bluestone, with windows and exterior ornaments of Tasmanian freestone, from Kangaroo Point. It consists of a pointed porch, enriched with carved finials, which leads into a lofty open-roofed chapel, lighted by four trefoil-pattern windows, and paved with encaustic tiles, and two crypts beneath. The style is Gothic, and the dimensions are – length 60ft.,width 22ft., while the slated roof reaches a height of 50ft from the ground. The Belfry is not yet finished. The crypts are solidly floored with concrete, and are provided with sufficient means of ventilation. They are intended as a final receptacle for the remains of deceased priests, which are to be placed there in leaden coffins. The bodies of about 10 deceased clergymen await their transit to this repository, which will take place contemporaneously with the solemn dedication of the building to the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph by the bishop. This will be celebrated in a few weeks, and the Rev. G. V. Barry will preach a special sermon on the occasion. This mortuary chapel is, we believe, the only one worthy the name in Australia; at least such was the opinion of Archbishop Polding, who visited it the other day, and whose knowledge on the subject is doubtless considerable. The entire edifice, which has cost over £1,000 is due to the Rev. W. M. Finn, who, with the permission of the bishop, initiated the movement which has resulted so successfully at the time that he was appointed to his present cure at Heidelberg. Since then the rev, gentleman has been unremitting in his exertions to obtain subscription, and when the money was forthcoming extended his careful supervision to every detail of the construction. The architect of the chapel is Mr. J. B. Denney, and the work was done in two contracts, the superstructure being erected by Messrs. J. Young and Co.”

The dedication ceremony of the chapel was to have taken place on Sunday 20th August 1871 but was postponed due to heavy rain. The service finally took place in the presence of a crowd of 10 to 15 thousand people on Sunday 10th September 1871.

Geoffrey Wallace Stained Glass Studio at Caulfield restored the windows after they were vandalised in 2008.

Four saints are depicted in individual lancets being:

  1. Saint Brigitta of Sweden, holding a candle,
  2. Saint Patrick of Ireland holding the staff with the snake at his feet,
  3. Saint Joseph holding a stalk of Lily flowers,
  4. Saint Maria with her hands folded in prayer.

Each window has the Latin Motto “ORA PRO NOBIS” (Pray for us) at the bottom.

All the photos of the windows have been kindly contributed by Geoffrey Wallace . The images show the remarkable transformation before and after the restoration by Geoff’s Studio.

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