St Mary of the Angels, Wellington
The building, is classified as a "Category I" ("places of 'special or outstanding historical or cultural heritage significance or value'") historic place by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.
The first Catholic Church built on the site of St Mary of the Angels was a small chapel ("the chapel of the Nativity") built by Father O'Riley in 1843. It was blessed and dedicated by Bishop Pompallier on a visit to Wellington in the next year. This building was gradually enlarged and was completely replaced by a large wooden church in 1874. Fr O'Riley named this building "St Mary of the Angels" after the Portincula chapel which was precious to St Francis of Assisi.
This church was extended until it was badly damaged by fire in 1918 and then demolished. The present building was opened and blessed on 26 March 1922 by Archbishop Redwood and a solemn pontifical Mass was celebrated by Bishop Liston of Auckland. A sermon was preached in the evening by Bishop Whyte of Dunedin.
Plans for the church were prepared by architect Frederick de Jersey Clere in 1919. Architecturally, the design is traditional Gothic of French influence. The front facade was said to have been modelled on that of the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula in Brussels. The structure is reinforced concrete and brick with a timber roof supported by concrete arches with steel tie rods. Its construction was innovative in that it was 'the first occasion ferro-concrete was used for a church of Gothic design'.
The church is noted for its collection of stained glass windows, especially in a continuous series completely around the clerestory interrupted by the rose window above the narthex, a window of the crucifixion above the high altar and two spacious banks of 15 windows, one finishing the north transept (fifteen decades of the Rosary) and one finishing the south transept (the life of St Joseph). These windows flood the liturgical spaces of the church with light.
The church also houses an extensive collection of statuary, including a reduced, marble, copy of Michelangelo's Moses and life-sized representations of the Pietà and the Holy Family. In the transepts, the Our lady and St Joseph side altars are of brown-mottled marble and include prominent statues of Our Lady of the Rosary (in Dominican habit with blue veil) and Saint Joseph, with votive candle racks in front of each of them. Other large statues in various parts of the church include the Sacred Heart, St Vincent de Paul, St Marcellin Champagnat and St Peter Chanel.
The Gothic marble high altar and tabernacle, in front of a blue backing, includes a sculpted, reredos with statues. The altar was detached from the reredos and moved forward in the 1960s in the implementation of the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council (the celebration of the Mass facing the congregation). This altar is fronted by a carved, Last Supper set under an incised arch along its width. The ornate columns in the sanctuary are topped by marble statues of angels.
St Mary of the Angels is renowned for its Gregorian Chant which began in 1905. With the opening of the present church in 1922, a choir of 70 voices sang Mass under the direction of Edward Healy. The organ of the church is a unique instrument, originally built in 1958 by George Croft and Son Limited from Auckland, but extensively redesigned in 1984 to Max Fernie's specifications.
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St Mary of the Angels on Map
Sight Location: Wellington, New Zealand (See walking tours in Wellington)
Sight Type: Religious
Guide(s) Containing This Sight:
Walking Tours in Wellington, New Zealand
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.5 Km or 2.2 Miles
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.6 Km or 2.2 Miles