Melbourne’s St Paul’s Cathedral: Victoria’s most visited sacred place

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Melbourne is known for its laneways, shopping, great coffee, and for being Australia’s cultural melting pot. Rarely do tourists factor in visiting a church when thinking about where they’re going to stay or what they’re going to do in this magnificent city.

However, St Paul’s Cathedral in Flinders Street sees over 400,000 visitors a year and is Victoria’s most visited sacred place. Located on the corner of Flinders and Swanston Streets, it can easily be seen while visiting other famous Melbourne places like Federations Square and Flinders Street Station.

St Paul's Cathedral Bell Tower.
St Paul’s Cathedral Bell Tower

I popped into the Cathedral after a particularly hectic time in Federation Square and welcomed the respite from the mayhem outside. It was so lovely to just sit and reflect and to take in how beautiful this Cathedral really is.

Organ at St Paul's Cathedral, Melbourne.
Organ at St Paul’s Cathedral

One of Australia’s famous cathedrals, it was designed by the distinguished architect William Butterfield in the neo-Gothic transitional style and is considered by many to be his final masterpiece. The Cathedral’s foundation stone was laid in 1880 and building works lasted for another eleven years. The consecration of St Paul’s Cathedral took place on 22 January 1891.

An important part of Melbourne’s Christian community since the city’s foundation the Cathedral stands on the grounds of the first public Christian services in Melbourne were held.

To this day regular services continue to take place on most days of the week. Naturally, you’re not allowed to wander around the Melbourne Cathedral during these times. However, you are most welcome to sit and participate in the service. There are candles available at two stations in the side aisles.

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The Ascension Chapel is also available for visitors to use for quiet prayer. Hourly prayers lasting for about two minutes take place throughout the day and are led by the Day Chaplain.

Visitors who happen to be in the Cathedral at this time are asked to remain still and (if they know it) are invited to recite the Lord’s Prayer in their own language.

Neo gothic interior of St Paul Cathedral.
Interior of St. Paul’s Cathedral

St Paul’s Cathedral is open for tourists Monday – Saturday from 10 a.m entry is through the Great West Doors on Flinders Street. Admission is free, but donations are welcome to help support the ongoing building works and ministry.

Bookings are not necessary for general visiting. Information guides in several different languages are available for your self-guided tour.

Glass painting and pillar work at St. Paul Cathedral.
Glass painting and pillar work at St. Paul Cathedral

If you’re visiting as a group of five or more people, you can choose to book a guided tour. These tours take between 30 and 40 minutes and can be tailored to your interests. A donation of $5.00 per person attending the tour is requested.

I was visiting on my own and was happy to walk around by myself, but if you’re with a group a guided tour would be worthwhile doing.

An interesting aspect of the Cathedral are the stained-glass windows that tell Bible stories.

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This feature was incorporated into gothic churches as a visual form of Bible storytelling at a time when not everyone could read or have access to their own bible.

Not all visitors to St Paul’s Cathedral are Christians and the windows provide a delightful way for them to engage and learn from these Bible stories.

Prayer hall of St. Paul Cathedral.
St. Paul Cathedral in Melbourne

Each week volunteer window storytellers meet visitors to the Cathedral who are interested in hearing about the stories depicted in the windows and their relevance.

After you’ve finished exploring the inside of the Cathedral take a walk around to the west side of the building on Swanston Street.

Here you’ll find a statue commemorating Captain Matthew Flinders navigator and cartographer.

Captain Flinders is known for having proved Tasmania is an island and for being the first to circumnavigate Australia and identify it as a continent.

The bronze statue depicts the Captain in his uniform standing on the prow of a boat that’s being pushed and pulled ashore by two sailors.

If you’d like to purchase a souvenir to remember your visit, the Cathedral has a modern gift shop selling all kinds of goods from crosses, rosary beads, and bibles to candles, tea towels, and jewellery. All proceeds from the gift shop go to supporting the work and ministry of St Paul’s.

It’s best to use public transport to get to St Paul’s as there is no onsite car parking in the Cathedral grounds. The free City Circle tram stops at the front of the Cathedral and Flinders Street Station is right across the road.

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Author Bio: Audrey from Victoria Uncovered

Audrey from Victoria Uncovered
Audrey from Victoria Uncovered

Audrey is the principal blogger behind Victoria Uncovered. A site that helps people get the most out of their visit to Victoria Australia. Book Lover | Breakfast Nut | Aussie Gal | She’s usually craving coffee. You can follow Audrey on Instagram and Facebook.

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Pinterest images of organ and interior of St. Pauls Cathedral.
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