OUR HISTORY & HERITAGE
FROM BASILICA TO CATHEDRAL
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.
In his design of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Petre broke with tradition and used a Palladian rather than Gothic style of architecture – a basilica form, based on the classical imagery of Roman public buildings was thought appropriate to express the Catholic Church’s Roman connections.
Opened in 1901 as a parish church, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart was only consecrated as the Cathedral in 1984 by Cardinal Thomas Williams. In recognition of the first Cathedral (St Mary's), it was named the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and St Mary his Mother. Today, its popular title is simply Sacred Heart Cathedral.
Francis Petre was the first New Zealand – born architect to rise to national prominence. He became a fellow of the New Zealand Institute of Architects on its foundation in 1905 and was its President in 1907 and 1908.
Petre had strong family connections to Golder's Hill, the area on which Sacred Heart Cathedral was built. Land adjoining Sacred Heart Cathedral was given to the Catholic Church by the Petre family.