Serenity and beauty of eight historic churches in Sydney
Church architecture contains to draw visitors interested in the story behind the buildings, the personalities whose lives intersected with the church and the glorious windows that emblazon the interiors.
Location and walking tour (self-guided)
7 km walking tour OR 4.3km excluding DETOUR
Start with Garrison Church, Saint Patricks Catholic Church, Saint Stephen’s Uniting Church, Saint James Church, Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Great Synagogue, Saint Andrew’s Cathedral and DETOUR Cathedral of The Annunciation of Our Lady.
Best time to visit
Year round however check the church website for opening details as well as religious events.
Garrison Church (The Rocks) is part of the jointed church community for bot. The Garrison Church is located in the heritage precinct The Rocks. The churches’s role was to support the spiritual life of the regiments stationed in the city. The church building, (1843) was the first military church in Australia. While there was confusion about the buildings layout during construction the final result is early morning light hits the east windows bathing the interior in a slow warm glow. There is a small museum where visitors can view the First Fleet bible and prayer book as well as military memorabilia and historical exhibits. The west wall has plaques dedicated to various Australian military regiments. The church is active and encourages visitors. Check for up to date information before visiting.
St Patrick’s Church
St. Patrick’s Church is described as Sydney’s oldest Catholic Church. The High Altar stained glass windows and statues were imported from France in the early 20th century. The church is active and encourages visitors to participate in church services. ‘Built in the early 1840s, St Patrick’s stands in Sydney’s historic Rocks area, with a history reaching back to the very beginnings of Catholic life in Australia. Inseparably linked with St Patrick’s history is the name of William Davis, an Irishman transported for his part in anti-British uprisings in Ireland in 1798. Davis obtained land in The Rocks in 1809, and in the early years of the colony, when there was no resident priest in Sydney, his home became a centre of Catholic prayer’.
Saint Stephen's Uniting Church
Saint Stephen’s Uniting Church, Sydney is the congregation formed by the union of the Congregational, Methodist and Presbyterian Churches.The church was named St. Stephens because the English parliament of Westminster met in St. Stephens Chapel from 1543 to 1834. In 1875, the congregation was joined by another from Philip’s street and became the largest Presbyterian Church in Sydney. The present church replaced the old iron structure and was consecrated in 1935. A highlight is the highly patterned church roof interior. The timber panelling is exquisite. For opening hours check out Saint Stephen’s Uniting Church.
Saint James Church
Saint James Church is the oldest Anglican Church Building in Sydney. It also has the distinction of being in continuous use from 1824, when it was consecrated to the present. Convict architect, Francis Greenway and constructed using convict labour. St James is an excellent example of the Macquarie period of architecture. The Hyde Park Barracks (another Greenway building), (Old) Supreme Court, the General Hospital (the Minit and Parliament House) and Government House (Conservatorium of Music). St James and King Street Courts continue to this day fulfilling their original function. Observing the local handmade bricks and an exquisite children’s chapel are visitor favourites. The church has a well known choral history with a professional choir as well as regular bell ringing. The church is active and encourages visitors.
St Mary’s Cathedral
St. Mary’s Cathedral is the cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney, and the seat of the Archbishop of Sydney. The church building is a classic Gothic Revival style using local sandstone. Notable interior features are a terrazzo mosaic crypt. The stained glass windows were made in Birmingham at the well known Hardman Studios and were brought to Australia in the late 1880’s. There are 14 bells where change ringing is practiced. The bells are pulled from their upside down position with the rotation of the bell visitors can hear the peal of 14 bells. With a location opposite Hyde Park St Mary’s Cathedral is a popular visitor destination. For up to date visitor information check out St Mary’s Cathedral.
Great Synagogue of Sydney
Great Synagogue of Sydney Is listed on the Register of significant cultural monuments in Australia. Consecrated in 1878 and the first synagogue contained as a place of worship. Sixteen Jews were among the First Fleet. Synagogue records describe, ‘there are 12 recessed arches on the ground floor and in their gallery, reminiscent of the12 tribes of ancient Israel. The stained glass windows at the two ends of the buildings are chaste but nondescript; one window illustrating Jewish symbols was installed near the choir gallery, perhaps as the first of a series that was never completed. The wheel window remains an impressive sight.’ The internal columns used to be adorned with intricate floral motifs which have long since been painted over. They were rediscovered in 1981 when the education centre beside the Synagogue was in process of construction. Stencils based on these old motifs were then used to decorate the Synagogue itself and the various floors of the new centre, providing a link between generations a century apart. Public tours are held on Thursday with no bookings required. There is an admission fee. In the basement is a museum is a collection of Jewish religious objects used from birth to death. For more details about opening hours check out The Great Synagogue.
St. Andrew's Church
St. Andrew’s Church is the oldest Anglican Cathedral in Australia. The small perpendicular Gothic church with its red stone and emblematic twin towns is next to the Sydney Town Hall. The style was called perpendicular Gothic that was used in many cathedrals in Britain. Architect Edmund Blacket designed an English-style church in a layout similar to the iconic York Cathedral. Construction began in 1819 and the church was consecrated in 1868. A chapter house was added to the existing structure in 1886. Major restoration and reconstruction work was undertaken between 1999 and 2000. Notable features are the foundation plaques, the organ (1866), the lectern with the mounted eagle symbolising St John, and the original tiles and marble floor. Remember to look up into the heavens at the intricately painted roof interior. To explore the Cathedral collect a brochure near the donation box A tour of St Andrew’s Cathedral. The stained glass windows are classic detailed depictions of the life of Christ. The choir stalls are made of carved English oak. The church is active and encourages visitors to relax in the quiet spaces.
DETOUR: Another 3km to walking route
Cathedral of The Annunciation of Our Lady originally an Anglician church now Greek Orthodox Church. Wikepeda describes, ‘Positioned on a visually prominent site, the cathedral was built in the Colonial Decorated Gothic style. A sandstone construction with slate covered timber roof, the building also consists of a square tower surmounted by an octagonal turret, with a nave, two wide aisles, chancel, two vestries and two porches. It has been noted that the landmark design of this building is reflected in its positioning and the alignment between the parapet and that of St Paul’s College at the University of Sydney (also an Edmund Blacket design).The architectural form, elevation and dimensions of the cathedral were taken from a lithograph of St Barnabas’ at Homerton – designed by Arthur Ashpitel. Using English architectural patterns for inspiration was a common practice for colonial architects in Australia. The church is worth a detour as an excellent example fo Greek Orthodox church interior. The iconography and embellishments of the altar, the sense of the Greek community in Australia is palpable giving the church a sense of community and outreach. The church has been in continuous use since 1855. The church is active and encourages visitors. ’
Travel Pack Information
The journey is worth it.