St Patrick’s Church History

St Patrick’s Cathedral stands on the land of the Darug people, the indigenous inhabitants of this land, people who were custodians of the land for thousands of years before Europeans arrived in Australia.

The first Mass in Parramatta was said by Fr James Dixon on 22May 1803. It was 1822 before Governor Macquarie assigned land in the Town of Parramatta on the north side of Parramatta River for the purpose of erecting a Roman Catholic Chapel at the request of the Rev J.J.Therry.

After much negotiation, planning and fundraising, work on the first Catholic Church in Parramatta was begun.

On St Patrick’s Day 1836 Archbishop Polding lay the first foundation stone of the church and after much fundraising and hard work by the people of Parramatta the Archbishop returned to consecrate the Church in May 1837.It was said to be a miniature of St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney. A payment by the government ensured that a school house was also completed.

By 1853 the parish priest Dean Coffey thought the Church was structurally unsafe and plans to build a new Gothic structure with tower were presented. A new foundation stone was laid in 1854 by Archbishop Francis Murphy of Adelaide. Completed in 1859 the interior boasted joining of the highest quality with cedar predominating. After more fundraising the Pugin tower named after its designer, was erected in time for the scheduled Consecration on St Patrick’s Day 1880.

In 1904 a new presbytery was built called Murphy House named after Fr Peter Murphy the assistant priest who died earlier in the same year. This building still remains.

The growth in the number of parishioners made it necessary to double the capacity of the Church and it was rebuilt to seat 700 persons retaining the tower and spire from the 1850’s Church. On 31May 1936 the Church was reopened.

In 1986 the new Diocese of Parramatta was formed and St Patrick’s Church became the Cathedral. Bishop Bede Heather was the first Bishop of Parramatta. He was succeeded in July 1997 by Bishop Kevin Manning.

On the afternoon of Monday 19 February 1996 - two days before Ash Wednesday, the Cathedral was destroyed by fire. Only the tower remained in tact. The loss of the building was greatly felt by the Parramatta’s Catholic family as it held nearly 200 years of Catholic tradition.

The new design was entrusted to MGT Architects from Canberra who worked to ensure that tradition would be respected in the building; care was taken to have harmony of the old and new. At the back of the Chapel of Reparation a part of the old stairwell is still visible. Some of the plaster in that stairwell bears evidence of the fire which destroyed the old Cathedral. The new Cathedral was opened in 2003.

In March 2010 Bishop Anthony was installed as third Bishop of Parramatta.

The Cathedral Timeline

17 March 1836

Foundation stone laid by Archbishop Bede Polding, Australia’s first Catholic Bishop

28 May 1837

St Patrick’s is consecrated by Archbishop Polding

13 August 1854

following demolition of the old church, the foundation stone is laid by Archbishop Francis Murphy for a new church to be built to designs of Augustus Welby Pugin


construction of new church complete, save for tower and spire until sufficient funds can be raised

17 March 1880

tower consecrated by Archbishop Vaughan

January 1883

spire blessed by Archbishop Vaughan

10 November 1878

foundation stone for tower laid

26 May 1935

foundation stone laid for rebuilding of the church

31 May 1936

St Patrick’s re-opened, its size has doubled but some parts of the old church have been retained


spire refashioned

19 February 1996

St Patrick’s Cathedral destroyed by fire, the Pugin tower being the only part left intact

29 November 2003

New Cathedral dedicated

30 November 2003

First Mass in new Cathedral

History at a Glance

Although it became the most recently completed Cathedral in Australia in 2003, the history of St Patrick’s can be traced as far back as 1792, when five local Catholic lay people petitioned Governor Philip to appoint a priest to minister Parramatta.

In 1803 it was announced by Governor King that Fr James Dixon would fill the role.

The first Mass in Parramatta was celebrated by Fr Dixon on 22 May 1803, but his appointment was revoked after the ‘Vinegar Hill Rebellion’ at Castle Hill in 1804. Mass wasn’t celebrated in Parramatta again until 1820, and St Patrick’s was official established in 1827.

The Foundation Stone for St Patrick’s at the 1 Marist Place Parramatta site was laid on 17 March 1836 and the church was consecrated on 28 May 1837. A larger church was commissioned in 1854, with the Foundation Stone laid on 13 August of that year. The 1880s saw the addition of St Patrick’s tower and spire.

In 1936, a new church was built on the site to meet the needs of a growing congregation, with its opening held on 31 May 1936.

In 1986, St Patrick’s was designated a Cathedral with the establishment of the Catholic Diocese of Parramatta. Bishop Bede Heather was the first Bishop of Parramatta. He was succeeded in July 1997 by Bishop Kevin Manning.

On 19 February 1996, the Cathedral was destroyed by fire. The destruction of the Cathedral evoked extraordinary feeling in the community, and a lengthy process began to raise funds and develop designs for the rebuilding of the 1936 church. On 29 November 2003 the new St Patrick’s Cathedral was dedicated. The old St Patrick’s Cathedral is now a Blessed Sacrament Chapel and adjoining it is a large contemporary Cathedral.

In March 1010 Bishop Anthony Fisher was installed as Parramatta Diocese’ third Bishop.