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Best Things to See in St Paul's Anglican Cathedral Melbourne

Home > Melbourne > Architecture | Churches | Free | Lists | Places of Interest | Tours
by Lionel (subscribe)
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Published July 6th 2014
Free Tour of Melbourne's Iconic Religious Landmark
St Paul's Cathedral
Photo courtesy of St Paul's Cathedral

Featured in numerous travel guide books is an iconic Melbourne landmark built between 1880 and 1931. St Paul's Anglican Cathedral is the home church for Anglicans in Melbourne and Victoria. Unlike other 19th century public buildings in the city, the Cathedral is not the cold blue-grey of bluestone but of a warm yellow-brown hue of sandstone. Its tower is the second highest Anglican spire in the world.

Located at the busy intersection of Swanston Street and Flinders Street, St Paul's Cathedral is more than just a famous place of worship and prayer. It is an active member of the local community, collecting donations for the homeless, launching an awareness campaign to encourage Melburnians to welcome refugees and even conducting free weekly conversational English classes to help new migrants and residents.

Step into the neo-Gothic transitional style Cathedral and you'll find an architectural marvel of banded sand stonework, beautifully patterned floor tiles and mosaics, tiled dado walls and finely crafted timbered roof. To help you enjoy your self-guided tour of the Cathedral, here are some of the best things to see and note.
St Paul's Cathedral processional doors
Photo courtesy of St Paul's Cathedral

Processional Doors

Installed in 2005, the doors allow a brightness into the interior of the Cathedral and provide an aesthetic welcome to visitors. Generous donations from The Sidney Myer Fund and family made their construction and installation possible. The light-filled entry designed by Janusz Kuzbicki reflect the gothic revival architecture of the building. The doors highlighting symbols of the 4 Gospel writers are also symbolic of St Paul's experience on the Damascus road and his efforts to break down the barriers between people and the Gospel, making Christianity accessible to all people.

Narthex Screen

You can view an ancient depiction of God as the Trinity in the unusual 3-in-1 face from the altar side. The screen originally separated the nave from the chancel.

Baptismal Fonts

The Cathedral has a Harcourt granite round font for dipping baptism candidates and a full cruciform immersion font. The round font existed since the Cathedral was built and the immersion font was added in 1912 in memory of the 3rd bishop of Melbourne.

The Persian Tile

St Paul's Cathedral persian tile
Photo from Flash Nick of Flickr

Located on the wall to the right of the ceremonial entry doors, is a replica of an 8‐pointed star tile found in 2 churches in Iran, namely the Church of St Simon the Zealot in Shiraz and St Luke's Church in Isfahan.

Floor Tiles and Dado

St Paul's Cathedral floor tiles
Photo courtesy of St Paul's Cathedral

The floors and walls of the Cathedral are covered with elaborate tiles that are a feature of the original design. They comprise of imported marble, granite, alabaster and richly patterned imported tiles. Take a walk around and note all the different types and patterns of tiling in the different areas. Often during the hot summer months, the tiles cracks and need repairs.
St Paul's Cathedral chapel of unity
Photo courtesy of St Paul's Cathedral

Chapel of Unity

You can light a candle at the Chapel of Unity where Pope John Paul prayed with Anglican Archbishop David Penman in 1986.

North Aisle & South Aisle Lower Windows

You can see scenes from the life of St Paul at the lower windows of the north aisle on the Swanston street side. St Peter's Church in Kinglake has permanently loaned the painting "Anzac Christmas" by Violet Teague to the Cathedral. The south aisle lower windows depict scenes from the life of Jesus Christ.


The pulpit used for preaching was designed and made in England. It was presented to the Cathedral by Hon. William Cain M.L.C., a former Melbourne Lord Mayor in 1888. His daughter who passed away in early childhood is one of the figures carved into the side of the pulpit.


The incredible stonework of St Paul's Cathedral is both intricate and beautiful with the Cream Waurn Ponds limestone banded with Malmsbury bluestone from Victoria.

Brass Lectern

St Paul's Cathedral brass lectern
Photo from Le Monde1 of Flickr

The ornate brass eagle on the sphere is seen to be bearing the good news of the bible on its back as the book is being read to the masses.

Moorhouse Tower Lantern
St Paul's Cathedral lantern
Photo courtesy of St Paul's Cathedral

Installed in December 2006 is a 25 panel glass feature in the ceiling just above the crossing area of the Cathedral. The basic design is a circle set in a square field with a 8 pointed star. The square represents earthly existence, the circle the monogram of God and the star is a symbol of divine guidance and hope.

The Wooden Ceiling

As you admire the lantern, take note of the beautifully craft ceiling made of Karri wood from Western Australia, which often goes unnoticed by visitors.

Mounted Mosaic in North Transept

The memorial tablets located in the north transept acknowledges the former archbishops. The artists and craftsmen who crafted the high altar reredos also made this for the Cathedral

Pipe Organ

St Paul's Cathedral pipe organ
Photo courtesy of St Paul's Cathedral

Housed in the Cathedral's south transept behind newly-stencilled facade pipes is the musically and historically significant pipe organ. It was build by T.C. Lewis and Co of Brixton in England back in 1890 and helped open the Cathedral in 1891. It has since been rebuilt and restored in 1929 and again in 1989. The pipe organ now accompanies the choir at choral services and recitals by internationally acclaimed organist like Colin Andrews and national names like Kurt Ison from Sydney and Callum Close from Newcastle.

High Altar and Reredos

St Paul's Cathedral glass mosaics
Photo courtesy of St Paul's Cathedral

Scene of the Last Supper and Jesus' death rest above the high altar and reredos made from Devonshire marble, alabaster and Venetian stained glass.

Chapel of the Ascension

It features a reredos or altar screen made of glass mosaics which depicts the ascension of Jesus Christ to heaven.

The chapel in west wing of St Paul's Cathedral
The chapel in west wing of St Paul's Cathedral / Photo from Donaldytong of Wikimedia Commons

Macartney Chapel

Named after the first Dean, this area features the 'Missa Cantata' painting by Australian abstract artist John Coburn and plaques listing the Bishops and Deans of Melbourne. The Wood's crozier located there was passed down through the generations and now conserved in the Cathedral. Made of silver and blue enamel, featuring the arms of Winchester encircled by the Garter, and a serpent and an angel, the crozier was designed by Sir Ninian Comper and made by Frank Knight of Wellingborough in 1924.

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Why? The best things to see in St Paul Cathedral
When: Sunday to Friday: 8am to 6pm / 
Saturday: 9am to 4pm
Phone: 61 3 9653 4333
Where: St Paul's Cathedral
Cost: Free
Your Comment
What a really interesting article Lionel.
by Nadine Cresswell-Myatt (score: 3|6049) 2540 days ago
When's the tour?
by mich8 (score: 0|6) 2538 days ago
A great article and beautiful photos.
by H. Clare Callow (score: 2|109) 2490 days ago
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