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The Cerretti Chapel - history

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The College and the Cerretti Memorial Chapel 1939
Source: "Manly" Vol.6 No.1 1939

Curiously it was not until 1935, over twenty years after Cardinal Moran's death in 1911, that the final physical manifestation was made of Moran's vision of St Patrick's College, in the building of the chapel. That it be so long delayed witnesses to the enormous costs that such enterprises placed on the Catholic community, particularly given the acceleration of the prodigious demands that school building had imposed on Catholic finances historically. But the delay also raises the question of priorities: did the splendid public sermon in stone which was St Patrick's come before proclamation of its spiritual core?

In 1935 the Cardinal Cerretti Memorial Chapel was opened adjacent to and in architectural harmony with the main building, enhancing and enriching the total atmosphere and impressive power of the site. Despite (or rather in addition to) the Roman, Vatican, implications of the name, the Cerretti Chapel was another affirmation of Australianness. Cerretti had come to Australia in 1915 as the first Apostolic Delegate, diplomatic representative of the Papacy in Australia, a role he regarded as ambassadorial, national, and independent of local bishops. This placed him in conflict with Michael Kelly who had succeeded Moran as Archbishop of Sydney on his death in 1911. Kelly regarded St Patrick's as a troublesome creation of a Moran he disliked, a situation which placed both College authorities and students in alliance with the new Delegate. Cerretti delighted a St Patrick's College prize giving in 1916 by proclaiming 'Australia for the Australians'. To thus name the spiritual heart of the College was entirely appropriate, diplomatically well judged in declaring its allegiance to the Papacy, and with the piquancy of an implied snub to Kelly.

The Chapel, built forty years after the Seminary, in 1934-5 complements the seminary in Gothic style, materials and details.

It was designed by the Architects Hennessy, Hennessy & Co. The east end is convenient to the seminary and has an emphasis on function rather than architecture; the architectural highlight is the cluster of chapels at the west end and the 20th century structural devices which enabled the column free interiors without massive buttressing. The 'cloister' aisle along the northern edge of the building, with its sequence of altars, is a distinctive and well-lit space.

It is a lofty single storey building with organ and choir loft and cloisters. The nave is column-free, and features an uninterrupted vaulted ceiling with silky oak joinery, jarrah parquetry flooring and decorative plaster. The special features of the sanctuary are marble altar, sandstone altar canopy and terrazzo flooring. The chevet end displays fine marble altars and magnificent stained glass windows.

The major windows appear to be of English manufacture, the lesser ones of local manufacture.

Conservation works completed in 1996 include repairs to slate roof, gutters and downpipes and stonework.