Sydney's Historical Churches, Sydney

Sydney's Historical Churches (Self Guided), Sydney

Over the years, Sydney's historical churches have aroused a sense of admiration in many beholders. Some of these buildings have even become iconic symbols of Sydney, well worth going a good way to see as vivid examples of both historical and architectural value.

The impressive Early English-style of architecture seen in Saint Mary's Cathedral is said to have inspired the American author Mark Twain, who visited Sydney in the 1890s, to remark on it as "a charming creation of man's handicraft, with a softening of time's slow-touching and wasteful finger."

In his turn, the famous Australian writer and poet, Henry Lawson, may have found inspiration in Saint Andrew's Cathedral. This Anglican temple, "A refuge for the weary heart, when life is drear and the way is dark", has graced the city with its Neo-Gothic beauty since the early 19th century.

Another gem of ecclesiastical masonry gracing the historic district of Sydney is Saint Philip's Church. First built in 1802, this is one of the first churches in the colony and, thus, one of the oldest in Australia.

The Great Synagogue of Sydney is a stunning example of Byzantine Revival architecture. Constructed in 1878, its ornate interior and intricate design reflect the cultural heritage of the local Jewish community.

Saint James' Church, with its Georgian-style appearance, is another historic Anglican church in Sydney. Completed in 1824, it continues to be a symbol of Sydney's colonial heritage.

If you seek solace in prayer or are simply interested in places of spirituality from either an architectural or historical standpoint, these notable sanctuaries will serve the purpose all the same. Take our self-guided tour around Sydney to find your way to some of its most important places of worship.
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Sydney's Historical Churches Map

Guide Name: Sydney's Historical Churches
Guide Location: Australia » Sydney (See other walking tours in Sydney)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 5
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.2 Km or 2 Miles
Author: nataly
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Saint Mary's Cathedral
  • Great Synagogue
  • Saint Andrew's Cathedral
  • Saint Philip's Church
  • Saint James' Church
1
Saint Mary's Cathedral

1) Saint Mary's Cathedral (must see)

The mother church of Australian Catholicism, St. Mary’s Cathedral is the largest church in Australia. It is a functioning place of worship and an important landmark in Sydney.

The foundation stone of St. Mary’s Cathedral was laid in 1821 by Governor Macquarie and a simple structure was completed in 1835. The cathedral was destroyed by a fire in 1865. Father McEnroe, the then Archdeacon commissioned the building of the present structure designed by architect William Wardell and completed in 1882. The dedication mass was held by Archbishop Vaughan who also gave the first peal of bells. Work on the church continued after its dedication and improvements have been continually made to embellish the structure. It was given the title of a minor basilica by Pope Pius XI in 1930 and was the focus of World Youth Day in 2008 when it was visited by Pope Benedict XVI.

St Mary’s Cathedral’s exterior is clad with dressed Pyrmont stone and the architectural style is Gothic Revivalist. It has twin towers facing south and a cruciform design with a central tower where the nave and transepts meet. The interiors have windows with picturesque stained glass, intricate sculpture and a poignant monument to fallen soldiers.

Why You Should Visit:
The impressive flight of stairs leading up to the entrance and the two slender spires pointing to the sky make this elegant minor basilica amazing, chiefly when the walls glitter in gold light in the sunbeams.

Tip:
The best view of the Cathedral is probably from College street. Pick your visiting time carefully because of the regular services and the irregular but very frequent weddings. During the weddings, you can't walk in to see the Cathedral.
2
Great Synagogue

2) Great Synagogue

The Sydney Great Synagogue is the largest place of worship for Jewish people in New South Wales. It is listed on the Register of the National Estate which is a list of significant cultural monuments in Australia.

The Great Synagogue was designed by Thomas Rowe and has a combination of Byzantine, Moorish Revival and Victorian Free Gothic Architectural styles. It was consecrated in 1878 and is the oldest synagogue in New South Wales that continues to be used as a place of worship. The Jewish community of Sydney flourished in the city from the earliest European settlements when 15 Jews were among those brought as convicts by the First Fleet.

The Great Synagogue is a highly decorated structure in carved sandstone and timber, molded plaster, tiling, glass and metalwork. It has a traditional elevated area for ladies. A 25 minute movie about the history of Jews in Australia is shown to visitors and there is a small museum in the basement with a collection of Jewish religious objects used from birth to death.
3
Saint Andrew's Cathedral

3) Saint Andrew's Cathedral

St. Andrews Cathedral is a historical Anglican Church in Australia. It is a small Gothic style building with a red stone exterior and twin towers located next to the Town Hall in Sydney.

The St. Andrews cathedral was designed by architect Edmund T. Blacket. The style was called perpendicular Gothic that was used in many cathedrals in Britain. Construction began in 1819 and the church was consecrated in 1868. A chapter house was added to the existing structure in 1886.

The interior of the church is adorned with unique tiles and marble floors. The stained glass windows depict the life and parables of Christ. The choir stalls are made of carved English oak. There are many plaques commemorating the founders of the church. The large organ was built in 1866. The lectern has a carved eagle that is the symbol of St. John. The font is a gift received by the cathedral in 1868.

A brochure is provided to help visitors find their way around the church. The main service is held at 10:30 and the Asian bible church is held at 2 pm every Sunday. Bible studies classes are held on all days of the week.
4
Saint Philip's Church

4) Saint Philip's Church

Located in the oldest Anglican Church parish in Australia, the St. Philip’s Church stands on what was later called Church Hill. It was a well known Sydney landmark for many years. It is also called the York Street Anglican.

The Saint Philip’s parish was established in 1802. The parish church at the time was a stone structure that earned the name, the ugliest church in Christendom. The foundation stone for the present building was laid in 1848. It was designed by Edmund Blacket and constructed between 1848 and 1856 and was consecrated in 1856 by Bishop Frederic Barker. The first two ministers were William Cooper and his son William Macquarie Cooper, who was the first Australian born minister in an Anglican Church. He served the church for 60 years.

The church has many interesting objects in its interior. There are memorial tablets of notable parishioners adorning the walls. The organ was placed in 1874. There is a magnificent seven light east facing stained glass window. The tower is 102 feet tall and is designed in the style and form of the Magdalen Tower in Oxford. The Australian Register of the National Estate lists Saint Philips Church as an important national cultural building.
5
Saint James' Church

5) Saint James' Church

The Saint James Church is the oldest Anglican Church Building in Sydney. It also has the distinction of being in continuous use from 1824, when it was consecrated to the present.

The Saint James Church was designed by convict architect, Francis Greenway and constructed using convict labour. The design was a simple classical style resembling a Georgian Town Church. It is often regarded as the finest work of Greenway. The walls are made with local brick. Several additions were made to the original structure over the years as the congregation increased in number. There is a brick undercroft beneath the chapel that served at different times as the verger’s residence, parish schools and shelter for soldiers. There is also a beautiful children’s chapel with murals executed by modernist painter and writer Ethel Anderson and her group where Sunday School sessions are held.

St. James Church has served the poor and the needy from the 19th century. They serve a weekly lunch and a full dinner at Christmas to the less fortunate. It has a strong choral and music tradition from the date of its consecration with a professional choir, a three manual pipe organ and tuned bell ringing. Concerts and recitals are hosted by the church throughout the year.

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