Not packed in a bus. Not herded with a group. Self guided walk is the SAFEST way to sightsee while observing SOCIAL DISTANCING!

Sydney's Historical Churches (Self Guided), Sydney

Churches in Sydney are vivid examples of buildings with both historical and architectural value. Some of them, like St Mary’s Cathedral, have become iconic symbols of Sydney. So if you are interested in places of spirituality from either an architectural or historical standpoint, this self-guided tour will take you to the most important of Sydney’s 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: 8
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.6 Km or 2.2 Miles
Author: nataly
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • The Garrison Church
  • St Patrick's Church
  • Saint Philip's Church
  • Saint Stephen's Uniting Church
  • Saint James' Church
  • Saint Mary's Cathedral
  • Great Synagogue
  • Saint Andrew's Cathedral
The Garrison Church

1) The Garrison Church

Located in the historic working class location of Sydney called the Rocks, the Garrison Church was the place of worship of regiments stationed in the city. The actual name given to the church was Holy Trinity Anglican Church.

The foundation stone of the Holy Trinity Church was laid in 1840 by the first Anglican Bishop of Australia, William Grant Broughton. The design was by architect, Henry Ginn. Construction began using stone quarried from the surrounding land and the building was completed in 1843. The first recorded service was held in 1844. It was the first military church in Australia. Two mistakes are associated with the church. The foundations were to be facing from North to South according to plan but it was laid East to West. This was regarded as a fortunate mistake because the morning sun shines through the east window and casts an almost heavenly glow in the interiors. The other mistake was that the clergy did not consecrate the church until the year 2000, 140 years after its construction.

There is a small museum at the entrance displaying a collection of military memorabilia and historical exhibits. The west wall has plaques dedicated to various Australian military regiments.
St Patrick's Church

2) St Patrick's Church

St Patrick's Church is considered to be Sydney's oldest Catholic Church. Back in 1999 it was restored to its former grandeur. Among the Church's outstanding features there are the imposing high alter crafted in Paris, impressive stain glass windows and the statues, most of which date from the early 20th century and were imported from France.
Saint Philip's Church

3) 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.
Saint Stephen's Uniting Church

4) Saint Stephen's Uniting Church

The St. Stephens United Church is the place of worship of a congregation formed by the union of the Congregational, Methodist and Presbyterian Churches. The new ministry was established in 1977.

The St. Stephen Church was imported by a small congregation. It was an iron structure that could seat 800 worshippers. It was erected in 1855 next to the parliament house on the site of the State Library. The church was named St. Stephens because the English parliament of Westminster met in St. Stephens Chapel from 1543 to 1834. In 1875, the congregation was joined by another from Philip’s street and became the largest Presbyterian Church in Sydney. The present church replaced the old iron structure and was consecrated in 1935.

The church has a Gothic revivalist style and has one of the most beautiful patterned ceilings in Australia. It is a working church and has a large regular congregation. Sunday service is held and afternoon devotions are arranged on the first and third Sunday of the month. It is the scene of many weddings because there is no discrimination based on religious affiliations and couples who were previously married are also joined in wedlock.
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 also hosted by the church all through the year.
Saint Mary's Cathedral

6) 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.

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. Presumably on the weekend, you should have to have some other programs.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 6:30am-6:30pm; Sat-Sun: 6:30am-7pm
Great Synagogue

7) 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 first 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. As the Jewish population increased, many buildings around the city were rented as places of worship by the congregation till a permanent structure designed by James Hume was erected in 1844.

The Great Synagogue is a highly decorated structure in carved sandstone and timber, moulded 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.
Saint Andrew's Cathedral

8) Saint Andrew's Cathedral

St. Andrews Cathedral is the oldest 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. Major restoration and reconstruction work was undertaken between 1999 and 2000.

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.

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