St Paul's Cathedral, Dunedin

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St Paul's Cathedral is the mother church of the Anglican Diocese of Dunedin in New Zealand and the seat of the Bishop of Dunedin.

St Paul's seen through the trees in a view of The Octagon, Dunedin



The Cathedral Church of St Paul occupies a site in the heart of The Octagon near the Dunedin Town Hall and hence Dunedin. The land for St Paul's Church was given by the sealer and whaler Johnny Jones of Waikouaiti.


The first parish church of St Paul was built on the site from 1862 to 1863. It was made of Caversham stone and could accommodate up to 500 people. It was not, however, well constructed. The stone weathered badly and the tall spire was removed after just a few years. The man consecrated to be the first Bishop of Dunedin, but never enthroned, Bishop Henry Jenner, visited the diocese in 1869. He officiated at St Paul's and gave a lecture on church music illustrated by the St Paul's choir. He is remembered as the composer of the hymn tune "Quam dilecta".

In 1871 Samuel Nevill was elected as Bishop of Dunedin. Initially he made no mention of the need for a cathedral for the diocese and it was not until the 1876 synod that he broached the subject. The issue was avoided by forming a commission to investigate the whole matter. The commission later recommended that St Paul's should become the mother church. However, Nevill favoured St. Matthew's Church, Dunedin, and the impasse remained. In the early 1880s the question was revisited and again no resolution was reached. However, in 1894, 18 years after the issue was first raised, all sides agreed to the proposal for St Paul's to become the cathedral. The cathedral chapter was formed and took up the responsibility for running the cathedral from 1895. Thomas Whitelock Kempthorne of Kempthorne Prosser Ltd was a generous supporter of the cathedral and a memorial stands inside.

Building a new cathedral

Interior view looking at the Memorial Window above the front entrance which reads "This Window was Erected To the Glory of God and in thankful and loving remembrance of those of Otago and Southland who gave their lives in The Great War 1914–1918"

In 1904, William Harrop, a prominent Dunedin businessman, died and left the bulk of his estate to fund a new cathedral. However, release of the money was conditional on the chapter raising £20,000 towards the cost of the building. Nevill threw himself into the effort, but it was not until 1913 that the £20,000 was raised and work could begin. The first in a series of plans and modifications were submitted by Sedding and Wheatly, an architectural company based in England. The author of the final design was Edmund Harold Sedding (1863–1921). The supervising architect in Dunedin was Basil Hooper (1876–1960).

On 8 June 1915, the foundation stone of the new cathedral was laid. Huge foundations, large piers and a tremendous vaulted ceiling, the only one in stone in New Zealand, rose from the ground, forming the new cathedral's nave. Lack of finances, however, precluded construction of anything more. There was no money for the crossing or the chancel as originally intended. In the end it was resolved that a temporary chancel should be constructed using material saved from the old St Paul's. The new cathedral was consecrated by Nevill on 12 February 1919.


Social work featured prominently at this time, with the synodsmen, vestry and church leaders all publicly opposed to the government's Depression policies. The Cathedral administered a food bank and distributed food parcels for the citizens of Dunedin. Shortly after the Second World War, St Paul's suffered the loss of Dean Cruickshank, who moved to the Diocese of Waiapu, and of Victor Galway. The latter, an organist and professor of music, had been very popular, attracting large crowds to his recitals and performances. He had also regularly broadcast his productions, paving the way for services to be aired on radio.

New chancel

In the 1950s the vestry made the important, though difficult, decision that it wouldn't complete the cathedral to its original design. The dean suggested that ways be examined to link an extension to the existing structure, and the vestry agreed to investigate the possibilities. In 1966, the decision was made to build a new chancel. The plans had been drawn by Ted McCoy of the firm McCoy and Wixon. Construction began in earnest in December 1969. The old chancel was stripped and demolished and new columns began to rise from the debris. Construction and clearing up finished on Saturday 24 July 1971, and the Cathedral reopened the next day.

The new chancel was modernist, as high as the existing vault, with tall windows reaching from the floor almost to the ceiling. The altar was free standing and the furnishings matched the walls. Features of the new sanctuary were the free standing altar, (unusual for the time), clear glass windows, specially designed candle sticks, a Laudian altar front and a perspex cross containing stripes of the liturgical colours.

The sanctuary was re-ordered in 2003 with the altar moved forward into the nave.

In 2004, the perspex cross was moved temporarily (and initially) to the crypt to accommodate a production of the bi-annual Otago Festival of the Arts. Finally, a decision was reached by the then Dean Trevor James to restore the perspex cross to the sanctuary, and it was returned to its position at the end of 2009.



Consecration of a woman as bishop

In 1989, St Paul's received attention when Penny Jamieson was consecrated and enthroned as Bishop of Dunedin. Jamieson was only the second woman ordained as a bishop in the Anglican Communion and the communion's first woman to become a diocesan bishop.[3] Her appointment had been paved by the work of two cathedral women; Claire Brown, assistant priest at St Paul's from 1985 to 1989 and again from 2006 to the present, and Barbara Nicholas, honorary priest assistant.

New millennium

As the world prepared for the change from 1999 to 2000, St Paul's invited people gathered to celebrate in the Octagon to come into the cathedral, have a moment of silence, light a candle and pray for the new year and the millennium. Over the course of a couple of hours thousands came in and lit a candle. People placed their candles in sand arranged in the shapes of alpha and omega in the chancel, reminding those present that Christ is the beginning and the end.



St Paul's Cathedral has a notable history of church music and the choir is known for its high performance standards and wide repertoire. Over the last two decades at least eight of its members have pursued professional vocal careers, singing in British cathedral choirs (recent former members currently hold appointments at Ely, Salisbury and St George's Windsor). Several others – most recently Anna Leese – have gone on to international careers in opera. The choir has also contributed many members to the New Zealand Secondary Students' Choir, the National Youth Choir and Voices NZ.

The primary focus of the Cathedral Choir is to facilitate worship through its musical leadership, alongside the wider role of outreach within the diocese and beyond. The Cathedral Choir is an auditioned choir, with 22 singers. It sings three times per week during the choir season (Candlemas to Christmas Day), and offers many other musical events, such as concerts and tours, throughout the year. The choir has featured on broadcasts for Radio New Zealand alongside recordings for both national and local television. The choir sings a challenging repertoire from early plainsong to the work of contemporary composers. The Cathedral Choir, and all music at St Paul's Cathedral, is run by the Director of Music, Michael Grant.


St Paul's Cathedral's organ was built in 1919 by Henry Willis III in London and was installed the following year. In 1972, it was entirely dismantled and repositioned by the South Island Organ Company of Timaru. There are four manuals – great, swell, choir and solo. The organ has more than 3500 pipes and is often used for civic performances.



  1. ^ "New Dean installed at St Paul's Cathedral" . Otago Daily Times. 16 March 2009. Retrieved 15 March 2009.
  2. ^
  3. ^ Macbrayne, Rosaleen (7 June 2004). "Queen's Birthday Honours: Right Rev Dr Penny Jamieson" . The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 13 November 2011.

Further reading

  • Hamilton, Derek; Hamilton, Judith (2009). Early Churches in and Around Dunedin (Paperback). Christchurch, NZ: Self-published. ISBN 978-0-473-15950-4.

External links


Information as of: 08.08.2021 06:21:36 CEST

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