Cathedral of St Michael and St John to get new entrance as part of restoration

CHANGES: Carol Short and Cathedral of St Michael and St John Restoration Project Committee chair Phil Burgett look over plans for the cathedral. 040617cathedral3
CHANGES: Carol Short and Cathedral of St Michael and St John Restoration Project Committee chair Phil Burgett look over plans for the cathedral. 040617cathedral3

THE historic Cathedral of St Michael and St John is set to get a new entrance as work on its $6.5 million restoration moves into the next stage.

Rather than coming off William Street, the entrance will be on the building’s car park side to provide a larger gathering area both inside and outside for parishioners and for those attending for weddings and funerals.

Cathedral of St Michael and St John Restoration Project Committee chair Phil Burgett said a “substantial part” of the committee’s time last year was spent finalising the plans for the interior of the cathedral and its landscaping following the completion of work on the bell tower at the end of 2015.

Mr Burgett said concrete paving around the wall of the cathedral would have to be removed “so the building can breathe again” and to get rid of the moisture that has been causing the erosion of the stonework.

“That is work that has to be completed and that has been incorporated into the broader landscaping plan,” he said.

Mr Burgett said the Keppel Street side of the building had been restored, including repairing the stonework, and work had now moved around to “what can be loosely called the George Street side”.

”That work will continue around the building,” he said.

“Once the work gets to the car park side, that's where the landscaping needs to be factored in to work with the fabric of the building.”

Planning for the work on the landscaping and interior of the cathedral culminated in an extensive community and parishioner consultation process in October 2016.

A series of recommendations were put to Bishop Michael McKenna, who has since signed off on them.

Mr Burgett said the new entrance will avoid the problem of having people crowded on to the pavement on William Street after they leave the cathedral.

The new entrance will be created through the wall on the south side of the Cathedral Gift Shop and access to the cathedral will be available from the car park and William Street.

The brick fence on the Keppel and William Street quarter will come down and tiered steps will be used to open up the access to the cathedral. 

“Those steps will come right around to where the new entrance is,” Mr Burgett said. “It will be a much more inviting entrance way into the cathedral.”

The former Bishops' Mortuary Chapel at the William Street end of the building, where bishops were entombed before they were relocated to Bathurst cemetery in 2015, has been converted into a display area where the plans for the cathedral are available to inspect.

”There will be detailed views and explanations of the individual components that make up the progress of works,” he said.

People are able to make a donation to the project, if they choose, provide feedback on the works, and use a panel to access videos that look at the history of the cathedral and its restoration.

Work on the interior of the cathedral will include replacing the concrete floor of the Blessed Sacrament Chapel with a timber floor to improve the ventilation; moving the altar into the main body of the cathedral; and relocating the Cathedral Gift Shop to the existing Sacristy.

Mr Burgett said a temporary altar will be built when the existing altar is closed off so the arrangement can be tested before it becomes permanent.

He said the costings on the proposed works should be finalised by the middle of the year and work should take about 18 months to two years from that point.

He said the overall restoration project on the cathedral was approximately one-third completed.

“And in the work done to date, it would appear that every piece of remedial work is working effectively to deal with the aeration of the foundation and control of moisture content,” he said.