The foundation stone of St Mary’s was laid in 1854 but work ceased in 1856 and the partial construction remained an eyesore in Yarra Street Geelong for seventeen years before the newly appointed Archdeacon Slattery resurrected the plan to have the new church built. In January 1870 Archdeacon Matthew Downing commissioned T.A. Kelly to prepare plans for completion of the church .
Known as St Mary of the Angels Basilica, it was eventually opened by Bishop James Alipius Goold on the 4th of February 1872.
The large rose or wheel window in the liturgical west end facing Yarra Street is the work of Ferguson & Urie of North Melbourne. The window measures more than three and a half meters in diameter and cost in excess of £300. The Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, St. Patrick, St. Bridget, St. Augustine, and St. Francis Xavier the six prominent subjects in the window and are surrounded by angels, crowns and floral emblems. The Agnus Dei, or Paschal Lamb, carrying the victory banner takes place in the centre of the whole arrangement.
“The new cathedral in Yarra-street is rapidly approaching completion, and the workmen for some time past have been busily engaged with the decorative works of the interior. The side and upper roofs of Ceylon pine, have been stained and varnished, and the timber looks very handsome. Above the pillared arches, the blaster work has been very neatly and artistically executed. Instead of £200, as originally contemplated, the memorial window in front is now to cost about £300. The stained glass is being prepared by Messrs Fergus[sic] and Urie, of Melbourne.”
The Argus, Melbourne, Monday 5th February 1872, Page 5.
“The Church of St. Mary, Geelong, the solemn ceremony in connexion with the opening of which was performed yesterday, stands at the upper end of Yarra-street, Geelong, on an eminence which renders it the most conspicuous object in the town…”
“… a beautiful and elaborate wheel window, 12ft in diameter, considered the most beautiful in the colony, filled in with stained glass, illustrative of the patrol saints of the church with their appropriate devices…”
Photos taken 18th December 2010. (Updated photos from Nov 2013 can be see on Flickr)
In 1855, one of the original architects, Dowden, exhibited some proposed designs for stained glass prepared by Kearney & Co of Glasgow and intended for the church:
“…Mr. Dowden also exhibited two very beautiful designs for stained glass windows, sent from home by Messrs Kearney & Co, of Glasgow; one was intended for the front window between the towers in the Yarra-street elevation, and the other for one of the transepts; the first contains the Life of the Redeemer, pourtrayed in 12 elegant medallions; the other had four magnificently colored representations of the Virgin Martyr. He stated that they would cost on average, 500 each, which does not seem at all exorbitant, when we consider the elaborate beauty of the designs. We sincerely hope these designs or similar ones will be adopted, as it is of vast importance to cultivate a true taste for the higher classes of art in this country…”
None of the original 1855 designs for the stained glass windows by Kearney & Co were ever adopted. The west oriel or wheel window was eventually made by the Ferguson & Urie stained glass company of North Melbourne circa 1871 and was dedicated to Rev. Dean Hayes;
“…In after years the original design of the church was considerably modified to suit the altered circumstances, and a portion of the nave was completed, sufficiently large to answer the requirements of the reduced population. Even in this incomplete condition, the building is the most conspicuous, commodious and elegant ecclesiastical edifice in the town. Its facade contains a beautiful circular stained glass window in memory of a popular pastor of the place for many years, the Very Rev. Dean Hayes, who was on a visit to his native Ireland when he died, after having just been designated as the first Bishop of Armidale in New South Wales…”
This article from April 1871 gives insight as to how the window came about!
“A meeting of the friends and subscribers to the late Very Rev. Dean Hayes’ memorial fund, was held at the Town-hall, on Saturday. The attendance consisted of Mr Johnstone, M.L.A., and Messrs Noonan, Davoren, Mansfield, O’Brien, Kelly, and McGonigal. Mr R. de B. Johnstone was voted to the chair. It was announced that £117 was now lodged to the credit of the memorial fund at the Commercial Bank. The chairman stated that the object of the meeting was to decide in what manner the amount collected should be expended, with the view of perpetuating the memory of a great and good citizen. He referred at considerable length to the career of the late Dean, and the claim his good deeds had established. As the founder of the Catholic orphanages at a time when there were no other institutions in existence for the relief of destitute children, he had proved himself entitled to the gratitude of those who came after him. In a matter of this kind he left religious considerations entirely out of the question, and he was indifferent regarding the form the memorial might take, so long as a fitting tribute of respect was paid the the memory of a great and good townsman. It was then decided on the motion of Mr. Noonan, seconded by Mr Davoren, that the memorial should take the form of a stained window, to be erected in the new Roman Catholic Church, Yarra-street. A plan of the proposed window was exhibited, and certainly if the design is carried out it will be not only an embellishment to the sacred edifice, but a suitable monument to the deceased Dean. Archdeacon Slattery, and Messrs Johnstone and Nonan were appointed a sub-committee to carry out the erection f the memorial window which is to be inserted in the building over the main entrance. Some remarks were made about the erection of a marble tablet at the Catholic Orphanage, after which the meeting closed.”
At this point the actual window has yet to arrive and be installed in the tracery!
“While St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church is rapidly undergoing demolition a large wooden structure at the rear is to escape destruction for the present, having been converted into a temporary place of worship. The altar belonging to the old building has been transferred thither, so that, instead of the schoolhouse, the members of the congregation who are unable to attend the Ashby Church will be able to celebrate early mass in a place set specially apart for the purpose. The construction of the new church is rapidly progressing, and some idea of its architectural beauty may now be formed. The design of the front entrance is elaborate, and the carved stonework has been executed with great care and accuracy. Above the doorway in the centre frame of the memorial window to be erected to the memory of the late Dean Hayes has been so far completed that only the stained glass is wanting to complete the design. The window is circular, and the stonework about it is carved in such a manner as to produce a striking and elegant effect.”
“Great progress is being made with the building of St. Mary’s. Nearly all the stonework of the windows has been completed, and sandstone ornamental work is now being placed on the walls. The designs of the windows are a fitting match for the Very Rev. Dean Hayes memorial window, and are very chaste.”
“It will be remembered that some time ago a meeting of the subscribers to the memorial intended to be raised in honour of the late “ery Rev. Dean Hayes, was held at the Town Hall. It was then re solved that the money collected for the purpose by Messrs Johnstone and Noonan, amounting to £130, should be applied towards the erection of a memorial window in St. Mary’s Church, and the Rev. Archdeacon Slattery, Messrs R. de B. John stone and W. P. Noonan were appointed trustees of the fund. The whole of the ornamental stonework of the window has been completed, and is ready for the reception of the stained glass, but some additional funds are required to meet the expense. £230 is the estimate for the window, so that £100 has yet to be raised. Under the circumstances Messrs Johnstone and Noonan intend to resume their canvass, and it will be observed that subscriptions are invited.”
St Mary’s was opened on Sunday February 4th 1872 by Bishop Goold and the following article gave a bit of history, the ceremony, and a lengthy description of the church and the memorial window facing Yarra Street. The detail in the article also indicates that the memorial window of stained glass was the only figurative window erected in the church at that time and all other windows contained amber tinted cathedral glass. Today most of the windows are all filled with stained glass by many other stained glass studios but the two large windows in the north and south transepts are still original. The Rev Dean Hayes memorial window by Ferguson & Urie is the oldest stained glass window in the Church.
“…its magnificent wheel window, 12 feet in diameter. This window is filled with flowing tracery, slightly French in its idea, and glazed with stained glass, intended as a memorial to the late Ven Dean Hayes, the subjects represented being the Blessed Virgin, St. Joseph, St. Patrick, St. Bridget, St. Augustine, and St. Francis Xavier, with their corresponding symbols…”