1887: Wagga Wagga NSW, St Michael’s Catholic Church (now Cathedral)

Sacred Heart of Jesus and Sacred Heart of Mary

St Patrick and St Michael

St Joseph and St John

Three two-light windows, Sanctuary


Montgomery and his new wife Harriet, two of only six passengers aboard the SS Bothwell Castle (‘one of the best class of ocean carriers’), arrived in Hobson’s Bay on 18 December 1886.[1]  It is not known whether they boarded the ship at Antwerp on 7 October after their honeymoon in Venice, or at London on the 13 October; either way it was a long sea voyage, with bouts of heavy weather in the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean and Bass Strait.  The diverse cargo included farm machinery, explosives and two bears destined for the Adelaide Zoological Gardens, which apparently arrived ‘in fine condition’.[2]

By February 1887, Montgomery had secured premises at 67 Flinders Street, on the corner of Hosier Lane, just up the road from the rising pile that would become St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral.  Before the end of that month he was advertising in the daily and church press, a practice he would continue for the next forty years.

William brought with him several testimonials from satisfied English clients and Harriet arrived with all-important letters of introduction from her connections in America.[3]  It is not known whether letters from Iowa State Senator, WW Dodge to the American Consul in Melbourne, Colonel Morgon, or the Catholic Archbishop of Philadelphia, Patrick Ryan to the recently elevated Cardinal Patrick Moran of Sydney were effective, but soon Montgomery was preparing designs for a complete cycle of windows for the new Catholic Church of St Michael in Wagga Wagga.  He certainly worked quickly for on 8 June 1887 the three two-light windows for St Michael’s were ready for shipment when the Governor of Victoria and Lady Loch inspected them along with other work in progress at Montgomery’s studio.[4]

wagga wagga st michaels cathedral 1999

Fig. 1: Architects: Tappin, Gilbert and Dennehy, 1885, extensive additions, WJ Monks, 1922, St Michael’s Catholic Church (now Cathedral), Wagga Wagga NSW

The architects of St Michael’s were Tappin, Gilbert and Dennehy, although it was William Britain Tappin (1854-1905) who was experienced in church architecture.[5]  Henceforth when undertaking church commissions, his preferred local designer/maker would be William Montgomery, a collaboration that lasted throughout Tappin’s career.  The apsidal sanctuary held three two-light windows, each commissioned as a memorial to men closely involved in the development of Catholic interests and education in the district, and commissioned by the Parish Priest, Father Patrick Dunne.

wagga sacred heart jesus and mary 1887

Fig. 2: William Montgomery, Sacred Heart of Jesus and Sacred Heart of Mary, 1887, St Michael’s Catholic Church (now Cathedral, Wagga Wagga NSW

Most important of the group was the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary installed above the altar, thus proclaiming their primary place above other saints of the church.  This was reinforced by the ornate architectural canopies, more decoratively treated than the flanking pairs.. The window was dedicated as a memorial to the Reverend Dr. Patrick Bermingham (1828-1883), who had been instrumental in bringing the Presentation Order to Wagga Wagga from Kildare, Ireland.[6]  The window was the gift of prominent parishioner, Mrs. John Cox.[7]

wagga ss patrick and michael 1887

Fig. 3: William Montgomery, St Patrick and St Michael, 1887, St Michael’s Catholic Church (now Cathedral), Wagga Wagga NSW

The left hand (northern) two-light, St. Patrick and St. Michael, was also donated by Mrs Cox, as a memorial to her husband, benefactor John Cox (d.1877) of Mangolah Station.  During his lifetime John Cox had been a loyal supporter of the church in the Wagga Wagga district, particularly by financing a convent for the Irish Presentation Sisters.[8]

wagga ss joseph and john

Fig. 4: William Montgomery, St Joseph and St John, 1887, St Michael’s Catholic Church (now Cathedral), Wagga Wagga NSW

The two-light, St. Joseph and St. John, commissioned for the right-hand (southern) side of the apsidal sanctuary was installed in memory of Mr. John Donnelly Snr., who, with John Cox, was a long-serving and generous supporter of Catholic affairs in Wagga.  In 1874 he had purchased 40 acres of land for a convent for the Presentation Sisters.

Fig. 5: William Montgomery, The Crucifixion, 1887, St Michael’s Catholic Church (now Cathedral), Wagga Wagga NSW

The Crucifixion, a pivotal subject in Christian worship and faith, was a logical selection for the west wall and designed to complement the three two-light pairs of windows in the apsidal chancel of St. Michael’s Church and, according to the Wagga Wagga Advertiser 30 August 1887, the four figures in the window were ‘well and faithfully represented’.  It was the gift of Messrs Cox Brothers in memory of their mother, Mrs Cox of Mangoplah.

The foundation stone was laid by Bishop Lanigan of Goulburn on 26 April 1885 and took more than two years for the first stage of the stone building to be completed.  It was to be blessed and opened by Cardinal Moran, but the task fell to Bishop Byrne when the Cardinal was unable to be present for the ceremony on 2 October 1887 due to ‘delicacy of His Eminence’s health’.[9]

Fr. Patrick Dunne, was elevated to Vicar General of the Goulburn Diocese in August 1887, and shortly after the opening of the church was relocated to the Vicar General’s residence at Albury.[10]  The Advocate noted his singleness of purpose that resulted in ‘the noble specimen of architecture…a visible and enduring monument’ to the Very Reverend Dunne V.G.[11]  Montgomery would later design and make him a memorial window for the nave, which honoured his contribution.

Photographs (1999): Bronwyn Hughes

[1] Argus, 20 December 1886, p. 4.

[2] South Australian Advertiser, 16 December 1886, p. 4.

[3] Documents relating to Montgomery are held in the William Montgomery Collection, MS 15414, State Library of Victoria, unless otherwise noted.

[4] Advocate, 16 July 1887, p. 19.

[5] See Brian Andrews, Australian Gothic, The Miegunyah Press, Melbourne University Press, Carlton, 2001, pp. 66-67.

[6] http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/bermingham-patrick-2981

[7] Advocate, 16 July 1887, p. 19.

[8] Advocate, 6 June 1874, p. 6.

[9] Advocate 8 October 1887, p. 17.

[10] Advocate, 29 October 1887, p. 19.

[11] ibid.

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