St Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral group including buildings and their interiors and fencing | NSW Environment & Heritage

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St Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral group including buildings and their interiors and fencing

Item details

Name of item: St Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral group including buildings and their interiors and fencing
Other name/s: St Sophia Parish Church, The Cathedral of God's Wisdom, The Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Sophia, Agia Sophia
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Religion
Category: Cathedral
Primary address: 302-304 South Dowling Street, Paddington, NSW 2021
Local govt. area: Sydney
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
302-304 South Dowling StreetPaddingtonSydney  Primary Address
6 Napier StreetPaddingtonSydney  Alternate Address

Statement of significance:

St Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral Group has state significance. It has served as a venue for worship as well as social and cultural activities for the Greek Orthodox community since the 1920s, and remain highly valued by that community. The buildings have direct historical links with the political division of the Greek Orthodox Church which occurred during the 1920s, and the Cathedral and Hall were constructed as a result of this division. St Sophia is the first purpose built Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Australia.

The Cathedral and Hall are of aesthetic significance as fine examples of religious buildings designed during the Inter-war period. The Cathedral in particular is a rare example of the adaptation of a liturgical Greek Orthodox interior, with typical features of a Byzantine Church with iconography and a centralised domed cupola above the nave combined with an exterior designed in the Academic Classical style. The Hall is the only known religious hall constructed in this style in the Sydney area. The elaborate facades of the two buildings complement each other forming an elegant stylistic group. The scale and classical composition of the Cathedral and Hall make them prominent landmarks and are important elements in the streetscapes of South Dowling Street and Napier Street.
Date significance updated: 12 Apr 16
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.

Description

Designer/Maker: Walter Leslie
Builder/Maker: W Robins
Construction years: 1926-1930
Physical description: Description (based on Banner and Lowe 1999)

The site of the Cathedral and Hall is at the corner of South Dowling and Napier Streets, Paddington, with the Cathedral facing South Dowling Street, and the Hall behind the Cathedral, facing onto Napier Street. There is a palisade fence in front of the main entry to the church along South Dowling Street. The fence along Napier Street is of rendered masonry construction with piers. The grounds between the church and fence have been paved in concrete.

The form of the Cathedral is Byzantine in style, that is, a centralised building, with a dome resting on a square base. The Byzantine form is essentially conceived internally, and externally the building is dressed in the full panoply of Inter-War Academic Style elements. The unusual adaptation of a traditional liturgical interior, enclosed within an Academic Classical style shell is illustrated in the treatment of the dome. The dome is conceived internally, within the roof structure and is not expressed externally as in the typical Byzantine form. The façade is a symmetrical composition of four fluted Ionic columns, supporting a dentillated pediment, which contains the inscription: "Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Sophia" This is an unfortunate translation of the name of the Cathedral, which ought to be "Holy Wisdom" or "God's Wisdom". . Parapet walls conceal the roof and the dome, which is located centrally over the Cathedral. The walls are typically plastered and painted, with those sections of walling flanking the portico featuring bold horizontal recessed coursing. The side elevations continue this high level of detailing and are characterised by plastered walls, recessed horizontal coursing, arched windows, dentillation below the cornice, and classical pilasters.

The interior of the Cathedral is designed in the typical features of a Byzantine church, all of which are emulations of the archetype, Hagia Sophia in Constantinople (Istanbul today). A dome is located centrally above the nave. It is intended to appear to hang downwards from heaven with no support from the world beneath. The figure of Christ as Pantocrator, blessing the world, is represented in the dome and around its base the Apostles and Archangels. The iconography in the Dome had been painted over but in recent times has been uncovered and restored. The ceiling is fibrous plaster and segmented by timber detailing. In descending levels of the celestial ranks, the plastered lower walls of the Cathedral are covered in paintings depicting the saints, below a dentillated cornice, which is the only classical features of the interior. The most prominent internal feature is the iconostasis, a screen in front of the altar, extending from one wall to the other, behind which most of the ceremonial takes place. The interior is richly embellished with framed icons and with chandeliers supplementing the natural lighting from the many coloured glass windows. The nave of the Cathedral contains the main seating area, with an additional seating area located at gallery level at the west (entry) end of the building.

The Hall is also a fine building designed in the Inter-war Academic Classical style and is the only known such religious hall constructed in this style in the Sydney City Council area. It is constructed of cavity brickwork with rendered classical detailing. The Hall is located to the east of the Cathedral with approximately one metre between the Cathedral and the Hall. The Hall entry is on Napier Street and the eastern wall of the Hall abuts the neighbouring terrace in Napier Street. The front façade, facing south onto Napier Street, features a symmetrically arranged Classical style Temple front with pilasters. There are four giant fluted pilasters, which support a cement-rendered entablature. The pediment features a dentil course and carried the inscription "Saint Sophia Hall". A parapet extends above the roofline on all sides of the building. The classical detailing of the Hall relates well to the character of the Victorian terraces in Napier Street. Four terrazo steps lead to the main entrance, recessed beneath the entablature. A set of three casement windows are arranged on each side of the entrance. A small circular vent is centrally located above the pediment. The western façade is relatively plain, featuring cement rendered walling and several groupings of multi-pane casement windows and a pair of external access doors. The north elevation (rear) also has smooth cement rendered walling. A single casement window is positioned to match the window above the entrance. Metal secruity grilles cover each of the windows and doors to the rear of the building. Internally the building is arranged into seven bays which are expressed as recesses on the east and west walls. The roof is modern profile steel sheeting, which is supported by timber trusses on each of the internal piers.

The hall originally featured a plaster ceiling, which is now in place only over three of the bays and above the stage. The roof beams are exposed in the remaining part of the building. A fluted Inter-war period cornice features on three of the main walls. This has been replaced in some sections with a modern quad cornice. The skirtings are modern timber quad. The northern end of the building features a central stage with a timber-framed floor and plaster ceiling. The stage is accessed by a set ot timber stairs at the front. Two small wings adjoin each side, formerly providing access to the stage. The east "wing" has a later plywood floor. It contains a laundry, shower and basin, installed for residential purposes sometime during the 1980s. A separate water closet is accessed through this wing. The entry is arranged around a central porch with a small storage space to the east and a kitchen area to the west. A small gallery above the entry features a steel pipe rail. There are three groups of multi-pane casement windows inserted into the wall at the gallery level.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
The exterior of the Cathedral is in good condition and retains a substantial proportion of original fabric. Since the 1970s, the interior of the hall has undergone a considerable amount of change. A 1971 photograph shows that the interior front of the hall has been altered and that the fenestration on the external façade has been rearranged. A gallery/mezzanine level was installed. A new set of windows was incorporated into the fabric after this time. It is clear from historical photographs that the mezzanine, upper level windows, and offices, are not part of the original fabric.
Date condition updated:22 Mar 05
Modifications and dates: Since the 1970s, the interior of the hall has undergone a considerable amount of change including:
-addition of a gallery/mezzanine level
-changes to upper level windows
-provision of offices
Further information: Heritage Inventory sheets are often not comprehensive, and should be regarded as a general guide only. Inventory sheets are based on information available, and often do not include the social history of sites and buildings. Inventory sheets are constantly updated by the City as further information becomes available. An inventory sheet with little information may simply indicate that there has been no building work done to the item recently: it does not mean that items are not significant. Further research is always recommended as part of preparation of development proposals for heritage items, and is necessary in preparation of Heritage Impact Assessments and Conservation Management Plans, so that the significance of heritage items can be fully assessed prior to submitting development applications.
Current use: Church, Greek School, social activities
Former use: Church, Greek School, social activities

History

Historical notes: (1) Aboriginal History

This site forms part of the land of the Gadigal people, the traditional custodians of land within the City of Sydney council boundaries. For information about the Aboriginal history of the local area see the City’s Barani website: http://www.sydneybarani.com.au/

(2) Site History ( Based on Banner and Lowe 1999)

The site was originally part of the Sydney Common, shown on an 1811 map as encompassing the area between the present site of Centennial Park and Oxford Street. It has since passed through several periods of ownership. The Wesleyan Association owned the site from 1866-1908.

The Governor, Sir John Young, first granted the site of the present Greek Orthodox Cathedral and Saint Sophia Hall in 1866. The property was reserved as a site for a Wesleyan parsonage and adjoining school. This is noted on several site plans that were prepared around the time of the Sydney Common Subdivision, and on land title certificates. The title deed records the names of the church trustees, and the property then consisted of Lots 1 to 5. In 1867 title was transferred to a group of individuals, possibly church trustees. They include John Dawson (draper), Joseph Slade (builder), Samuel Gallagher (bookmaker), William Kippax (architectect), Thomas Rowe (architect) and William John Hayes (printer). The property consisted of an area of thirty-three perches and was mortgaged to John Pickard Holdings Pty. Ltd. for a sum of eight hundred pounds. By 1875, a portion of the property had been transferred to a group of prominent Sydney land speculators. A second portion remained with the Trustees of the Church. In the 1880s, the site of the present Cathedral and Hall was described ina City of Sydney Rates Assessment Notice as a "parsonage and house" under the ownership of the Wesleyan Church. The Wesleyan Church was absorbed under the banner of the "Methodist Church Trust" around the turn of the century. The City Council rates book records that the Methodists continued to own the property until as late as 1908, after which it was transferred into private ownership.

The property was acquired by the Jewish Society in 1914, and the 1915 edition of Sand's Directory lists the property as a boarding house. In 1917, the property is listed in Sand's as the Central Jewish Synagogue. In 1923, the property again changed hands, although the use of the property at this time is not known. In December 1926, members of the Greek Orthodox community established a company, The Hellenic Club Limited, which was ultimately registered as the "Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Australasia Inc". The company acquired the subject site at the corner of Napier and Dowling Streets, for 4500 pounds. The property consisted of 48-50 Dowling Street (later renamed South Dowling St) and extended back into Napier Street encompassing the site of the future hall. The transfer was recorded in the names of J. Psaltis, A. Louison, and J. Andrews.

The purchase of the property and the subsequent construction of the Cathedral are directly related to the political division of the Greek Orthodox community in Sydney at that time. As a result of the creation of an Australian Archdiocese, and the appointment of dr Knitis as the Archbishop, the community split into pro-Archbishop and anti-Archbishop factions. The construction of the Cathedral was carried out by a pro-Archbishop community council. The Cathedral of Holy Wisdom was the first Greek Orthodox Cathedral in the southern hemisphere. It was designed by Mr Walter Leslie. The building contractor was Mr. W. Robins and construction of the Cathedral commenced in 1926. On February 2nd 1927 the foundation stone was laid by the Consult General for Greece, Mr. Leonidis Chrysanthopoulos, in a ceremony conducted by the Archbishop, assisted by Fathers Maravelis from Brisbane and Dimopoulos from Melbourne, and by Sydney's Syrian Orthodox priest Father Nicholas Shehadie. Representatives of the Anglican Church, the Baptist Union and the Jewish community attended the ceremony. A copy of Ethikon Vima and the Sydney Morning Herald were placed in the foundations. The Cathedral was consecrated early in 1927 and was opened on 18th September of the same year.

According to historical records, the hall was constructed within a few years of the completion of the Cathedral, sometime around 1930. The Greek Orthodox community attained formal title to the site in 1954. The buildings are highly valued by the Greek Orthodox community who continue to use the buildings as a place of worship and for gathering.

(3) Greek Orthodoxy ( Based on part of the history within the State Heritage Inventory Report for the Cathedral of the Annunciation of Our Lady)

Orthodoxy been present in NSW since the nineteenth century and has been practised at a number of churches around Sydney before the establishment of the cathedral in Redfern. The Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Surry Hills, built in 1898, was the first of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere and practised under the spiritual jurisdiction of the Church of Greece, an autocephalous branch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. Following contentious disputes amongst the leadership about the direction of the church, the congregation split and the Cathedral of St Sophia (Agia Sofia) was established in Paddington in 1927.

After many years of tension between the churches and their prolonged period of co-existence, the two churches were finally reconciled in 1945 - a critical point in history when Australia was experiencing a steep increase in the numbers of Greek Orthodox migrants fleeing the war in Europe. The establishment of churches has always been a key element in the maintenance of faith and the provision of social support services to settling communities. With the migrant community growing steadily because of the government-assisted settlement after the war, the cathedral for Greek Orthodoxy was formed to become the focal point of cultural, education and philanthropic life in the community. Essential for the ongoing practice and celebration of their customs, traditions and language, the cathedral was an important support structure for the new communities settling and integrating into the Australian community.

With the congregation swelling and the Cathedral of St Sophia's reaching its capacity, the proposal to purchase St Paul's Church in Redfern afforded the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese an opportunity to encapsulate a cathedral and the necessary institutional facilities all on the one site. By 1970, the church had been converted and re-consecrated as the Greek Orthodox cathedral, known as the Cathedral of Annunciation of Our Lady. St Sophia's has since become a parish church.

Today, the Cathedral of Annunciation of Our Lady is internationally recognised as the seat of Greek Orthodoxy in Australia. It is home to the Greek Orthodox Archbishop and provides service for the most significant events within the church.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Religion-Activities associated with particular systems of faith and worship The Church-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The site has direct historical links with the political division of the Greek Orthodox Church, which occurred during the 1920s, with the Church and Hall being constructed as a result of this division. St Sophia (Cathedral of Holy Wisdom) is the first purpose built Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Australia and the second dedicated place of worship for the Greek Orthodox Community in New South Wales.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
The Cathedral and Hall are associated with Greek migrants who arrived after World War One and for the significant Greek Australian Community who continue to meet and worship there.

The site is also associated with Walter Leslie who designed the Cathedral.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The Cathedral and Hall are of aesthetic significance as fine examples of religious buildings designed during the Inter-war period. The Cathedral, in particular, is a rare example of the adaptation of a liturgical Greek Orthodox interior, with typical features of a Byzantine Church with iconography and a centralised domed cupola above the nave, combined with an exterior designed in the Academic Classical style. The Hall is also designed in the same style. The elaborate facades of the two buildings complement each other forming an elegant stylistic group. The scale and classical composition of the Cathedral and Hall make them prominent landmarks and important elements in the streetscapes of South Dowling and Napier Streets.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The Cathedral and Hall have served as a venue for worship as well as social and cultural activities for the Greek Orthodox community since the 1920s, and remain highly valued by that community.
SHR Criteria f)
[Rarity]
The Hall is the only known religious hall designed in the Inter-war Academic Classical style within the Sydney City Council area.
SHR Criteria g)
[Representativeness]
St Sophia is representative of Greek Orthodox places of worship built to service the needs of the community in NSW.

The exterior of the buildings on the site are representative of the Inter-war Academic Classical style whilst the interior of the cathedral is representative of Greek Orthodox places of worship showing typical features of a Byzantine Church.
Integrity/Intactness: Cathedral High; Church Hall: Exterior High and Interior Moderate
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.

Recommended management:

The Cathedral, Church Hall, and front palisade fence,should be retained and conserved. A Heritage Assessment and Heritage Impact Statement, or a Conservation Management Plan, should be prepared for the site prior to any major works being undertaken. All conservation, and future works should be undertaken in accordance with the Australia ICOMOS Charter for Places of Cultural Significance (The Burra Charter). There shall be no vertical additions to the buildings and no alterations to the façades of the building other than to reinstate original features. The principal room layout and planning configuration as well as significant internal original features including ceilings, cornices, joinery and flooring of each building should be retained and conserved. Any additions and alterations should be confined to the rear in areas of less significance, should not be visibly prominent and shall be in accordance with the relevant planning controls.

Listings

Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Local Environmental PlanSydney LEP 2012I110814 Dec 12   
Heritage study     

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Written  State Heritage Inventory Report for Cathedral of Annunciation of Our Lady View detail
WrittenAnita Heiss Aboriginal People and Place, Barani: Indigenous History of Sydney City View detail
WrittenScott Banner and Christina Kanellaki Lowe1999National Trust Listing

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Local Government
Database number: 2421278


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