History of the Cathedral

A Cathedral initially named by Bishop Moran, the Cathedral of St Mary and St Joseph, then later named St Joseph's Cathedral.

Today St Joseph's Cathedral, unfinished as it is, stands as a beautiful example of Gothic architecture, but it is above all a living temple where God is worshipped daily.

May the Story of St Joseph's Cathedral unfolded in these pages, like the building itself, raise our minds and hearts heavenwards.


In 1878 Bishop Patrick Moran, the first Bishop of Dunedin told his people: "We will begin the work. . . we cannot tell who might finish it. . . many years of strenuous effort will be demanded of us."

Situated on the right side of Rattray Street at a point where the winding road alters course to make its way up hill, a start on the foundation of the Cathedral was made in May, 1878. The gully site required very deep foundations to carry the predonderous structure where the Cathedral was to be.

The foundation stone was blessed and laid by Bishop Moran on February 26, 1879.

Eight years after the foundations had begun the building had progressed so far that it could adequately be used for church services. Towards the end of 1884, the walls of the Cathedral were completed and ready for the roof, a two years later and on February 14, 1886, Bishop Moran blessed and opened the new building - the ceremonies being presided over by Cardinal Moran, of Sydney.

The blessing and opening of the Cathedral was a function of lay and clerical magnificence, with a Cardinal, 5 Bishops, and thirty clergy assisting. In addition to Bishop Moran and Bishop Redwood of Wellington, Bishop Luck, O.S.B. of Auckland, Cardinal Moran of Sydney, Bishop Murray of Maitland, and Bishop Reynolds of Adelaide had travelled from Australia via Bluff. The visitors reached Dunedin on February 11, 1886, and were met by clergy and laity, the Mayor of Dunedin and some of the counciliors at the Railway Station. There was a procession via the Octagon lined with children. At the old St Joseph's in Tennyson Street, there was a welcome of bell-ringing and a brass band perfomance, followed by speeches. These preliminariesto to the opening of the Cathedral concluded with a fireworks display in the evening.

After the blessing of the new Cathedral by Bishop Moran on Sunday, February 14, High Mass was celebrated by Bishop Reynolds with music by the choir and an orchestra. Cardinal Moran preached at some length. The evening function has been described as a marathon event. Bishop Redwood preached, then Bishop Moran spoke at some considerable length, and many of the laity then presented addresses to the visiting dignitaries - all of whom replied at varying lengths. Bishop Moran intended that the Opening Day of his Cathedral would be a significant and memorable day - and indeed it was.


Bishop Moran

History pages:
History | The Architect | The Cathedral Site | Construction | Sculptor and Carver
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