OUR HISTORY & HERITAGE
Built on the same site as St Mary’s Cathedral (1851 – 1898), the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Saint Mary His Mother (known as Sacred Heart Cathedral) has been our spiritual home for over 120 years. It is a Category 1 Historic Building and stands proudly overlooking Wellington’s Parliamentary precinct.
Wellington was named the Archdiocese of the Province of New Zealand in 1887, and therefore the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart bears the title ‘Metropolitan Cathedral’, marking it as the senior church in the country’s relationship to Rome.
The Metropolitan Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and St Mary his Mother links Catholicism in New Zealand to its earliest foundations, making its preservation extremely important. The full title is a reminder that two Cathedrals have shared the same site. St Mary’s was the first major church in Wellington, built soon after the arrival of the first Bishop, Philippe Viard, in 1850. With the Sacred Heart Cathedral now over 120 years old, efforts to strengthen and refurbish reflect the significance of this sacred and historic building, the focal point of the spiritual and social life of all Catholics.
After a fire in 1898 destroyed Saint Mary’s Cathedral, it was thought that a new cathedral would be built elsewhere in the city. Therefore, Francis Petre was asked to design a church to serve the Thorndon parish.
Opened in 1901 as a parish church, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart was consecrated as the Cathedral only in 1984 by Cardinal Thomas Williams.
Strengthening and other works commenced in the late 1980s, which involved balancing the specifications for the “new Cathedral” against the integrity of the existing building, both in terms of its strength and characteristics.
The development of the Cathedral did not stop with the reopening but involved a second and exciting stage which was the piazza and forecourt. This element of the Cathedral was included in the development of the neighbouring chancery for the Archdiocese and created a true Cathedral precinct for the Church and people of the Archdiocese of Wellington. ✟