THE repair work necessary to save Bathurst’s St Michael and John’s Cathedral is expected to cost at least $2.5 million.
Without the money, Bathurst faces losing an important part of its heritage.
Tomorrow evening Catholic Bishop Michael McKenna will commission members of a newly formed Restoration Fund Committee to raise the funds necessary to carry out the work.
He has chosen the Feast of the Dedication of the Cathedral as the appropriate time to launch the appeal.
Member for Bathurst Paul Toole and National Trust member Maureen Pike will serve as co-patrons.
Bishop McKenna said he hopes the wider community will be involved in fundraising because the cathedral is such an important part of Bathurst’s heritage, as well as a vital piece of the city streetscape.
He said funds raised will be used for the restoration of the fabric of the building, in particular the bell tower, which has become unsafe.
Some of the sandstone from the 1800s has not weathered well and shows extensive fretting and disintegration, while early brickwork, decorative stained glass windows and copper and slate roofing also need repairs.
In addition there is rising damp in the south-west corner of the cathedral and concerns about sub-floor ventilation.
Bishop McKenna said although there has been some awareness of problems over the past few years the extent of the deterioration only became apparent when experts were brought in to look at the cathedral.
“If the work is not done the building will continue to deteriorate and become unuseable,” he said.
“That will mean the loss of an important part of Bathurst’s history and streetscape and a great loss to the community.
“It is a place that has welcomed all members of the community through weddings and funerals. Most families in Bathurst would have some conn-ection with the cathedral in this way.”
Bishop McKenna said any church is a visible symbol of the faith community that built it and the faith community that maintains it.
He said the cathedral’s foundation stone was laid on November 30, 1857 and the cathedral was blessed in 1861.
“This cathedral is something we hold in trust,” Bishop McKenna said.
“It’s not just for the use of the Catholic community – it’s an historic building of the city.”
Bishop McKenna said he hopes most of the work will be completed by 2015 when the diocese celebrates its sesqui-centenary and the city its bicentenary.
Anyone who would like to contribute to saving the cathedral can contact the Catholic Chancery on 6334 6400.