Treasures of St. Patrick's Cathedral

St Patrick's Cathedral is a house of God - a house of prayer and worship, quiet reflection and peace - a living treasure for all God's people.

Webster's Dictionary defines a treasure as "something of great worth or value...a collection of precious things".

The Cathedral is blessed with a wide variety of liturgical and heritage treasures that include:





Bishop's Chair

"The ministry of presidency… is symbolised pre-eminently in the chair or cathedra of the bishop, since he is the high-priest and teacher of his diocese, presiding over its whole life in the name of Christ."

The large, throne-like, carved wooden chair on the sanctuary is the Bishop's chair or cathedra.

The place of the cathedra is the Cathedral church of the Diocese.

The chair was a gift to Bishop Pompallier.

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Bust of Bishop Pompallier 

Bishop Jean Baptiste Francois Pompallier was the first Catholic bishop of New Zealand.

In 1937, Archbishop James Liston commissioned Mr. William Wright to execute a bronze bust of Bishop Pompallier to mark the centenary of the prelate's first arrival in New Zealand in 1838.

The commission was carried out at the Elam School of Art, Auckland.

The bust was unveiled in the Cathedral in April 1938 and described as follows: "executed from extant likenesses of the Bishop, it is considered to be a fine representation of his character and bearing. The ecclesiastical habit and decorations, including the Cross of the Legion of Honour, are equally authentic." New Zealand Herald 30 April 1938.

Artist: William Henry Wright

Artist's Background: Born at Plains Farm, Mapperley in Nottingham, England on 19 January 1886. Studied at the Nottingham College of Arts and Crafts from 1900 - 1912. Won a National Gold Medal three times as a sculptor and was recognised as one of Britain's finest art students. Awarded a National Scholarship in 1912 to study at the Royal College of Art, London. Graduated in 1917 after five years of study. His teacher at the time, Edouard Lanteri, spoke high praise for his student: "Mr. Wright has been… one of the best students, who have passed in that School during the 37 years I have been teaching there. He is not only the most competent about the Modelling of the Human figure, but also an excellent designer. He always shows in his work a great and very refined artistic feeling, strong in character and style". Embarked on a professional sculpting career until taking up a teaching post at the Elam School of Art in 1926.

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Foundation Stone

"When the building of a new church begins, it is customary to celebrate a rite to ask God's blessing on the work which is to be undertaken. In accordance with liturgical tradition, this rite consists of the blessing of the site of the new church and the blessing and laying of the foundation stone."
Irish Episcopal Commission for Liturgy 1994, The Place of Worship.

There is no known record of a foundation stone, or similar, being placed in the 1842 wood chapel.

Bishop Viard laid the foundation stone of the stone church on 1 March 1846. Its fate, when the building was demolished in 1905, is unknown.

The foundation stone for the 1884 nave and tower addition to the stone church can be found on the southwest buttress of the Cathedral nave.

The stone was set on 4 May 1884 and its contents were well described in a New Zealand Herald article published the next day:

"With this his Lordship marked the sign of the Cross on each face and the top of the stone, and read the following translation of the Latin scroll, which with other documents, coins, and medals was placed in the cavity of the stone:

To the Honour and glory of God Almighty, one in the Nature and three in Person, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, to the glorification of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, in honour also of the Immaculate Virgin Mary, Mother of God and of St. Joseph and of St. Patrick, the Apostle of Ireland, and of all the saints this foundation stone of St Patrick's Cathedral, from the design of Messrs Edward Mahoney and Son, Architects, Messrs Morris and Co. being the builders, was blessed and duly laid this 4th day of May, 1884, being the third Sunday after Easter and Feast of of the Patronage of St Joseph, by the Right Reverend John Edmund Luck, O.S.B., D.D., Bishop of Auckland in the presence of nearly all the Reverend Clergy of the diocese, and of a large concourse of the people, in the seventh year of the Pontificate of our most Holy Father Pope Leo XIII, in the second year of the episcopate of the Right Rev. John Edmund Luck, O.S.B., in the 47th year of the reign of Her Gracious Majesty Victoria, Queen of Great Britain and Ireland, and Empress of India, Sir William Jervois being Governor General of New Zealand, and W.R. Waddel, Esq., being Mayor of the city of Auckland.

With this were placed copies of the New Zealand Herald, Evening Star, New Zealand Tablet, Freeman's Journal, and London Tablet, together with coins, etc."

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Lenihan Plaque

The Most Reverend George M Lenihan was Bishop of Auckland from 1896 to 1910.

Bishop Lenihan was extremely popular with his people. He was noted for his violin playing, strong tenor voice and his friendly, smiling manner won him many friends.

He died at the early age of 52 and is buried at the foot of the Cathedral sanctuary steps.

One of the most significant works of art in the Cathedral collection is a brass memorial tablet dedicated to Bishop Lenihan.

An excellent synopsis of the history of the tablet can be found in an Auckland Star article of 8 December 1910:

“The engraved brass memorial tablet to be placed over the late Bishop Lenihan's tomb in St Patrick's Cathedral has just been completed by the engraver, Mr Allen Anderson, of Auckland . The tablet is 5 ft. 9 in. long and 2 ft. 6 in. in width, and the workmanship represents a considerable advance on anything of the kind that has been done in the Dominion, and possibly in the colonies. Hitherto all work of like nature has been done in England, but in the case of this tablet a new departure was made by entrusting the work to a local artist, and that Mr. Anderson has done full justice to the confidence placed in him is demonstrated after an inspection of the engraving, which is on exhibition in the window of Messrs. Andrews and Clark, Queen Street. Experts who have seen it say that it loses nothing by comparison with the best works in the Cathedrals of the Old World . This is praise indeed when it is remembered that Mr. Anderson had to do all the chiselling and engraving by hand, there being no machinery available for the purpose. An effigy, almost life-size, of the late bishop in his pontifical robes is surrounded by a design of shamrocks, and at the foot are the official seals, while the border is inscribed with particulars of the late bishop's life. The incised portions of the brass are filled in with black enamel. The work was carried on under the supervision of Messrs. E. Mahoney and Son, architects, and occupied three months. Arrangement has been made for the tablet to be unveiled by Bishop Cleary in January next.”

Pre-1985, the brass tablet was mounted in the Chapel of the Sacred Heart.

In 2000, the artist's son refurbished the plaque.

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Tabernacle Stand

The hand-carved, wooden tabernacle stand was a gift to the Cathedral from the Maori people of Panguru parish in the Hokianga. This is where Bishop Pompallier celebrated New Zealand's first Catholic Mass on 13 January 1838.

The top panel of the stand shows a fish, symbolising Christ, bearing on its back a basket of bread and a cup of wine. This illustration of the Real Presence dates from the early second century.

Thunder and lightning are carved above the main figure. This section of the work represents the Maori proverb "Papa to whatitiri, hokohiko te uira…" --- "The thunder claps, the lightning flashes…" and signifies an event of tremendous importance.

The second panel shows bunches of grapes.

The main figure of the central column represents Christ crucified. In His hands, He holds a calabash of wine and a loaf of bread proclaiming, "This is my Body, This is my Blood".

At the feet of the Christ figure are the symbols of His Passion --- the crown of thorns, the lash and the nails.

The base of the stand shows loaves of bread.

The stand measures 59cm long by 56cm wide x 1.01m high.

Artist: George Dixon

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Tower Bells

The Cathedral is home to two of the oldest bells in New Zealand. Bishop Luck purchased the bells in Rome during a fundraising tour of Europe in 1884.

The larger of the two bells, 24in high and 26in across, bears the inscription Ave Maria in onorem Bartholomei et Stephani A.D. MDCCXXIII - Hail Mary in honour of (St.) Bartholomew and (St.) Stephen 1723.

“The bell is decorated at the top with cherubs and garlands, and from the garlands suspend seven medallions - the Nativity, Crucifixion, St. Michael, St. Stephen, St. Bartholomew, Madonna and one which is unrecognisable. All are badly weather worn. Lizards decorate the bottom edge.” Auckland Star 1 February 1937.

The smaller bell, 20in high and 18in across, is inscribed Plerique benefecerunt vaccintorum V. Maria Franca AD MDCCL - Many of the beef-butchers contributed St. Mary of the French 1750.

“The bell has three rows of cherubs supporting garlands on which are three medallions - two of martyrs, with palms crossed, and a bust of Our Lady.” Auckland Star 1 February 1937.

The two bells are located 19.5m above the main porch floor of the Cathedral. They are suspended from a large wooden, wheeled headstock that allowed them, in the past, to be rung manually.

Since 1980, however, the bells have been electrically tolled. At 6 p.m. on 31 October, the automatic Angeles bell rang for the first time.

The Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London supplied the automated system.

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St.Patrick's Cathedral
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