St John's Pro-Cathedral

St John's Pro-Cathedral

St John's Pro-Cathedral is located at 18 Victoria Avenue. It is the earliest Roman Catholic church building in Western Australia.

Built form

The Cathedral is constructed of brick which has been covered with cement render and painted white. The gable roof is covered with shingles. The north and south facades are punctuated by arched windows. Buttresses have been placed at regular intervals down the length of these facades. The portico, which was removed in 1881, has been reconstructed at the western end of the building. The western gable end is punctuated by four arched windows, a pair above the portico and a single window either side of the portico. A lean-to extension is located at the eastern end of the southern facade. Entry to this section is through an arched door on the north facade. The church windows are of coloured glass set in wooden mullions. Those in the lean-to section are square, four paned windows.cite web |url= |title=Heritage Assessment - St Johns Pro-Cathedral, Perth |publisher=Heritage Council of Western Australia |accessdate=2008-06-17]


In 1843 approval for the request was granted from Rome (Vatican) and Father John Brady, Father John Joostens (Belgian priest) and Patrick O'Reilly (a Catechist) were soon to arrive in Fremantle on the ship 'Water Witch'.cite web |url= |title=History of the Catholic Church in WA |publisher=Perth Vista |accessdate=2008-06-17] Even though Father Brady was to stay in Perth for only a short time (two months) he was able to claim a land grant for the church, on Victoria Avenue. This was to be the site of the first Catholic Cathedral, The Church of St John the Apostle and Evangelist (St John's Pro-Cathedral). Construction commenced on 27 December 1843. The foundation stone was laid on 16 January 1844. Brady left for Rome, in 1844, to ask for assistance and advocate the establishment of a new diocese for the Swan River Colony.

Following Bishop Brady's arrival back in Perth in January, 1846, the Church of St John the Apostle and Evangelist became a cathedral as it was now the seat of a Bishop. Interestingly the chair that Bishop Brady brought from Europe still remains in the Pro-Cathedral. Bishop Brady left Perth in 1852, following disputes with the Apostolic Administrator, Joseph Serra. In 1850, Bishop Serra replaced Brady as Bishop of Perth and, in 1855, he extended the building in brick to twice it's original size. The church was rededicated as the Immaculate Conception. In 1856, a brick portico was added to the western side of the building.

St. John's Pro Cathedral was the principal place of worship for the Roman Catholic Community in Perth from 1844 until 1865. The Gothic-style St Mary's Cathedral replaced St John's as Perth's Catholic Cathedral upon its completion in 1865. The church then became known as St. John's Pro Cathedral and was used by the Christian Brothers as a school.

In 1881, St. John's Pro Cathedral was renovated and used by the Sisters of Mercy, under the name of St. John's Chapel, as the school chapel in the Mercedes College complex. [cite web |url= |title=Mercedes College - Our Heritage |publisher=Mercedes College |accessdate=2008-06-17] In 1965, the building was 'modernised' and used as a classroom for convent students and for external students studying English.

Between 1979 and 1980, work was done to restore the building and to remove additions and alterations which were unsympathetic to the original design, and the buildings was adapted for use as a museum by the Catholic Church.

Heritage value

The building is registered with the National Trust, State Register of Heritage Places, the Register of the National Estate and is on the City of Perth's Muncipal Heritage Inventory. [cite web |url= |title=Heritage Listing: St John's Pro-Cathedral |publisher=Heritage Council of Western Australia |accessdate=2008-06-17]

In accordance with the Heritage Council of Western Australia's assessment the Cathedral "has cultural heritage significance for the following reasons:
* "it is the first and the oldest Roman Catholic church in Western Australia";
* "the place is associated with the establishment of the Roman Catholic Church and the first religious orders in the State"; and,
* "the place is held in high regard by present day Catholics." [cite web |url= |title=Permanent Heritage Listing - St John's Pro-Cathedral |publisher=Heritage Council of Western Australia |accessdate=2008-06-17]

Further reading

* Bourke, D. F. "The History of the Catholic Church in Western Australia" (Archdiocese of Perth, 1979)
* Rossen, I. "St. John Evangelist Pro Cathedral Victoria Avenue, Perth Western Australia, A Sequential Building Study for the Purpose of Restoration" (no date)


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