SFX CATHEDRAL PRECINCT PROJECT
The Catholic Diocese of Geraldton has undertaken a major multi-faceted project to restore, conserve and enhance the iconic, heritage listed, St Francis Xavier Cathedral and its precinct.
The building that commenced in 1916, first opened in 1918, and was completed in 1938 at a time of great hardship in Australia, is recognized as an extremely important Architectural icon. It was designed by the internationally renowned priest-architect, Monsignor John Hawes. Due to the difficult economic times in which it was built, it was never finished to original specifications. Substitutions were made for expediency, including asbestos roofing to the famous dome in place of metal as designed. The cathedral was also showing signs of deterioration from weather and usage.
A prominent heritage architect, John Taylor, prepared plans for exterior and interior restoration, plus a new Monsignor Hawes Heritage Centre on the site.
This Heritage Centre includes a café as well as a Museum. This museum displays the historic collection of memorabilia and artifacts related to the life and works of Monsignor Hawes.
The Heritage Centre also serves as a gateway to around 23 Monsignor Hawes buildings located from Carnarvon to Bindoon. The café and surrounding landscaped areas provide a much needed social hub in the central civic precinct as well as a source of revenue to contribute to the Museum’s operating budget and ultimately help fund a grants scheme to reinvest in the heritage of Monsignor Hawes.
PROJECT SCOPE OF WORKS
This project covered the restoration of the Cathedral building, the construction of a new Monsignor Hawes Heritage Centre on the Cathedral property, and the landscaping and beautification of the Cathedral grounds to include a Midwest flower garden.
The Cathedral Precinct Project Committee received overwhelming support from members of the Mid-West community and raised over $3m in pledges and donations. Political leaders, Council staff, other tourist groups and community members in general were extremely supportive of the project.
The Cathedral currently receives at least 20,000 visits a year from tourists. It is an extremely important entry statement to all visitors arriving to Geraldton by road and it is hoped that the Project in its entirety will significantly expand tourism infrastructure and the tourism offering in the City of Geraldton and beyond.
The full project budget is approximately $9.0 million. The CPP committee launched a capital fundraising campaign for $3m for the Project and surpassed its goal. The State Government, through the Royalties for Regions Mid West Investment Plan, provided $1.54m and Lotterywest granted $651,00 for the Museum fit-out and the Plaza area. The Federal Government contributed $3m for the completion of the interior works of the Cathedral and the garden area which completed the Project. The remainder of the funding has been contributed by the Diocese of Geraldton.
BUILDING TIMELINE FOR CENTENARY
2016 marked the centenary of the laying of the foundation stone of the Cathedral. It was anticipated that this project would be completed in time to celebrate this milestone, however the major part of the works were not completed until the following year. The Cathedral reopened, after being closed for 7 months, on 22nd November 2017. The Geraldton Bells were installed in 2019 and blessed and rung in November of that year. Visitors are now flocking to the Cathedral to admire the restoration work.