The Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Sophia (Agia Sophia) | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

About us

The Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Sophia (Agia Sophia)

Item details

Name of item: The Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Sophia (Agia Sophia)
Other name/s: Cathedral of Holy Wisdom, Cathedral of God's Wisdom
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Religion
Category: Cathedral
Location: Lat: -33.882988 Long: 151.218984
Primary address: 302-304 South Dowling Street, Paddington, NSW 2021
Parish: Alexandria
County: Cumberland
Local govt. area: Sydney
Local Aboriginal Land Council: La Perouse
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
LOT1 DP179371
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
302-304 South Dowling StreetPaddingtonSydneyAlexandriaCumberlandPrimary Address
6 Napier StreetPaddingtonSydneyAlexandriaCumberlandAlternate Address

Owner/s

Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Greek Orthodox Community of NSWReligious Organisation 
Greek Orthodox Community of NSW Ltd.Community Group13 Jul 15

Statement of significance:

The Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Sophia (Agia Sophia) is of state heritage significance as the first Greek Orthodox cathedral built in NSW, Australia and the southern hemisphere. The first place of worship built as a result of the great social and political schism within the Greek-Australian Orthodox community of 1924, the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Sophia (Agia Sophia) became the second dedicated centre for worship for the Greek Orthodox community in NSW.

Since its construction in 1927, the cathedral has played an important role in the settlement of immigrant communities in Sydney, becoming a focal point for the social, cultural, education and philanthropic life in the community, and today the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Sophia (Agia Sophia) continues its original purpose as a spiritual centre for Christian Orthodox worship in NSW.

Richly embellished with iconography and incorporating the centralised domed cupola above the nave (demonstrating the sky), the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Sophia (Agia Sophia) is largely influenced by the architectural legacy of the Byzantine style and is a representative example of the architectural style used for Orthodox places of worship across the world.
Date significance updated: 07 Aug 15
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: Siting:
Located on the prominent Paddington corner of South Dowling and Napier Streets, the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Sophia (Agia Sophia) incorporates two buildings: the 1927 cathedral (fronting South Dowling Street) and the c1930 hall (behind the cathedral, fronting Napier Street).

Cathedral exterior:
Constructed in the Inter-war Academic Classical architectural style, the landmark cathedral building has a symmetrically composed facade behind four fluted Ionic columns. The pediment over the entrance to the cathedral contains the inscription 'Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Sophia'.

The exterior of the hall building also reflects the same Inter-war Academic Classical style as the cathedral. The rendered brick building demonstrates a similar classical facade with fluted pilasters. The parapet above the entry to the hall is inscribed with 'Saint Sophia Hall'.

Interior:
Internally, the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Sophia contains dominant design elements influenced by the Byzantine architectural style. Not evident from its external elevations, the cathedral incorporates a centralised domed cupola above the nave, under which hangs the main chandelier. The cupola symbolises the sky and is aesthetically influenced by the Byzantine-style dome.

The interior of the cathedral, much like other Greek Orthodox places of worship, is richly embellished with framed icons, wall paintings depicting saints, furniture and chandeliers.

Internally, the hall underwent substantial changes in the 1970s which resulted in the installation of the mezzanine, the upper level windows and the office spaces.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
The cathedral and hall buildings are in very good condition and the ongoing maintenance is most likely a result of its continuous use since 1927.
Date condition updated:06 Jan 06
Modifications and dates: Internally, the hall underwent substantial changes in the 1970s which resulted in the installation of the mezzanine, the upper level windows and the office spaces.
Current use: Greek Orthodox Cathedral; Greek School; social activities
Former use: Aboriginal land, farm estate

History

Historical notes: The "Eora people" was the name given to the coastal Aborigines around Sydney. Central Sydney is therefore often referred to as "Eora Country". Within the City of Sydney local government area, the traditional owners are the Cadigal and Wangal bands of the Eora. There is no written record of the name of the language spoken and currently there are debates as whether the coastal peoples spoke a separate language "Eora" or whether this was actually a dialect of the Dharug language. Remnant bushland in places like Blackwattle Bay retain elements of traditional plant, bird and animal life, including fish and rock oysters (Anita Heiss, "Aboriginal People and Place", Barani: Indigenous History of Sydney City http://www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/barani).

With the invasion of the Sydney region, the Cadigal and Wangal people were decimated but there are descendants still living in Sydney today. All cities include many immigrants in their population. Aboriginal people from across the state have been attracted to suburbs such as Pyrmont, Balmain, Rozelle, Glebe and Redfern since the 1930s. Changes in government legislation in the 1960s provided freedom of movement enabling more Aboriginal people to choose to live in Sydney (Anita Heiss, "Aboriginal People and Place", Barani: Indigenous History of Sydney City http://www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/barani).

The site where Saint Sophia Cathedral now stands was originally part of the Sydney Common, between the present site of Centennial Park and Oxford Street. It passed through several periods of ownership including the Wesleyan Association (1866-1908) and the Jewish Society (1914-1923). The Greek Orthodox Community NSW (established 1898) has been and continues to be responsible for the management and maintenance of the Saint Sophia Cathedral, as well as the Holy Trinity Church, the first Greek Orthodox Church in Australia (consecrated 1898), located in Bourke Street, Surry Hills and the Assumption of the Virgin Mary Church (consecrated 1956), located in Abercrombie Street, Redfern (Greek Orthodox Church in Australia, 2016, 2).

Orthodoxy arrived in NSW in the mid-to-late nineteenth century when significant numbers of Greek, Lebanese and Russian immigrants made their way to Australia from their homelands. The early migrants were attracted to Australia for a number of reasons, but particularly by the prospect of a new land and the chance to better their lives by amassing their fortunes in a developing settlement. Although the Lebanese migrants made a more permanent move by bringing their families and culture with them, the Greek migrants saw their Australian experience as a temporary measure to build their financial security before returning home to the Motherland and their families in Greece. As such, these migrants were largely young single men with no intention of settling in Australia or at least not until they were financially well established and could bring their wives and families from Greece to join them. For the majority, however, Australia was a place where they could make a fortune and then return to Greece to enjoy the hard-earned fruits of their labour.

When some did return home to Greece, news of Australia spread and chain migration began with family and friends of migrants going abroad to join them. As migration continued, a community developed in Australia with the implementation of the necessary organisations and structures needed to support the new immigrants who were still, overwhelmingly, single men with little to no understanding of the language and with few marketable employment skills. This institutional structure was important to the new migrants in helping them get established in a new country and integrate into their own community and the broader Australian society while maintaining their traditions, values and cultural identity.

The migration experience was a binding force within these communities and these newly-established institutions were able to provide food, shelter, supplies and a stable family-type environment for the migrants that followed. These strong connections promoted ethnic unity and enabled the newly-settled communities to sustain the cultural and religious practices brought with them from their homeland, as well as being an inclusive unit that could withstand the cultural and social isolation of the new country. Through the assistance of these communities, the new migrants tended to settle in clusters and, with the Greek and Lebanese communities, these areas were Surry Hills, Waterloo and Redfern (which was to become the hub of Orthodox immigration by the late nineteenth century).

Religious institutions were particularly important in the experiences and settlement of the new immigrants in Australia. In the very early days of the migration of Orthodox Greeks, Lebanese and Russians, there were no dedicated churches in which the migrants could worship but the celebration of major religious holidays (particularly Christmas and Easter) did continue through makeshift services being conducted by travelling priests.

For the continuation of the Orthodox faith, however, this pattern of worship was far from ideal and, in 1897, the Sydney Greek Orthodox Community (now the Greek Orthodox Community of Sydney and NSW) was established with the intention of constructing the first dedicated Greek Orthodox church to service the needs of the growing community. The first of its kind in Australia, the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church (Ayia Trias) was established in Surry Hills in 1898.

The faith of the early Greek settlers in Australia came largely under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem followed by the Church of Greece. However, due to a change in spiritual leadership within the community in 1924 with the arrival of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, tensions began developing within the Greek Australian Orthodox community. Divisions began to form between those supportive of change and those against and quickly the social and political schism within the community grew.

In 1924, as the schism reached its defining point, the Patriarchate established the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Australia and New Zealand (which was later elevated to the Archdiocese of Australia in 1959) and began leading religious services away from Sydney's centre for the Greek Orthodox faith at Ayia Triada, Surry Hills (Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church). The new metropolis looked to establish its own centre and fundraising began for the erection of a new church, the St Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral (Ayia Sofia) in South Dowling Street, Paddington. Purchased from the Jewish community, the cathedral was built in 1927, opened for worship later that year and consecrated in 1928.

The Cathedral was purpose built and named after the Byzantine Saint Sophia or Holy Wisdom Church in Istanbul. The Greek Orthodox Community NSW, established in 1898, presided at the consecration of Saint Sophia Cathedral in 1928 (Greek Orthodox Community NSW, 2016, 3).

The great schism of Greek Orthodoxy in NSW continued for many years despite significant efforts to reconcile the opposing factions. After a prolonged period of co-existence, however, the two churches were finally reconciled into the one Community, the Greek Orthodox Community of Sydney and NSW, in April 1945.

In 2015 an application was made to list the Cathedral as a heritage building by the State of NSW Government and this was approved. On Sunday 19 June 2016, the day of the commemoration of Saint Sophia, the NSW State Minister of Heritage, the Honourable Mark Speakman presented the Heritage Award to Harry Danalis, President of the Greek Orthodox Community NSW (Greek Orthodox Community NSW, 2016, 2).

In 2008 The City of Sydney and Woollahra Councils officially named the crossroads of Oxford Street, Dowling Street & Darlinghurst Road, Three Saints Square recognizing the Saint Sophia Cathedral, Saint Vincent Hospital and Notre Dame University (ibid, 2016, 2).

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
2. Peopling-Peopling the continent Migration-Activities and processes associated with the resettling of people from one place to another (international, interstate, intrastate) and the impacts of such movements Developing Greek settlements-
2. Peopling-Peopling the continent Migration-Activities and processes associated with the resettling of people from one place to another (international, interstate, intrastate) and the impacts of such movements Settling post-World War I migrants and refugees-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Environment - cultural landscape-Activities associated with the interactions between humans, human societies and the shaping of their physical surroundings Developing local, regional and national economies-National Theme 3
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Environment - cultural landscape-Activities associated with the interactions between humans, human societies and the shaping of their physical surroundings Significant Places: How are significant places marked in the landscape of Parramatta by, or for, different groups?-Monuments and Sites
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Events-Activities and processes that mark the consequences of natural and cultural occurences Providing a venue for significant events-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Accommodation-Activities associated with the provision of accommodation, and particular types of accommodation – does not include architectural styles – use the theme of Creative Endeavour for such activities. Building settlements, towns and cities-National Theme 4
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Land tenure-Activities and processes for identifying forms of ownership and occupancy of land and water, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Changing land uses - from rural to suburban-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Land tenure-Activities and processes for identifying forms of ownership and occupancy of land and water, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Sub-division of large estates-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages living in the city-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages 20th Century infrastructure-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages Creating landmark structures and places in suburban settings-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages Cultural Social and religious life-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages Cultural Social and religious life-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages Suburban Consolidation-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages Developing suburbia-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages Segregating towns and villages by ethnicity-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Religion-Activities associated with particular systems of faith and worship Practising Orthodoxy-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Religion-Activities associated with particular systems of faith and worship Cathedral-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Social institutions-Activities and organisational arrangements for the provision of social activities Places of formal community gatherings-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Social institutions-Activities and organisational arrangements for the provision of social activities Places of informal community gatherings-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Sophia (Agia Sophia) is of state heritage significance as the first Greek Orthodox cathedral built in NSW, Australia and the southern hemisphere. The first place of worship built as a result of the great social and political schism within the Greek-Australian Orthodox community of 1924, the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Sophia (Agia Sophia) became the second dedicated centre for worship for the Greek Orthodox community in NSW.

Since its construction in 1927, the cathedral has played an important role in the settlement of immigrant communities in Sydney and today the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Sophia (Agia Sophia) continues its original purpose as a spiritual centre for Christian Orthodox worship in NSW.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
The Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Sophia (Agia Sophia) is of state significance for its association with the Greek migrants who arrived in Australia following World War I and for the significant Greek-Australian community that continue to worship at the cathedral. Religious institutions have long been a significant aspect of the Greek-Australian experience and churches have provided a stable and reliable meeting place where communities can practice and maintain their spirituality, traditional culture, values and language.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
A landmark set of Inter-war Academic Classical buildings straddling the prominent corner of South Dowling and Napier Streets in Paddington, the architectural style of the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Sophia (Agia Sophia) and the Saint Sophia Hall are influenced by the architectural legacy of the Byzantine style. Not evident from its external elevations, the cathedral incorporates a centralised domed cupola above the nave, under which hangs the main chandelier. The cupola symbolises the sky and is aesthetically influenced by the Byzantine-style dome.

The interior of the cathedral, much like other Greek Orthodox places of worship, is richly embellished with framed icons, wall paintings, furniture and chandeliers. The cathedral also includes a detailed iconostasis separating the nave and sanctuary.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Sophia (Agia Sophia) is of state heritage significance for the important role it continues to have in the lives of the Greek Orthodox community in NSW.

Churches have been a significant aspect of the Greek-Australian experience since the first immigrants settled in Australia in the mid-to-late 19th century. With a significant influx of Greek immigrants settling in NSW following World War I, the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Sophia (Agia Sophia) became a focal point for the social, cultural, education and philanthropic life in the community. The cathedral was an important place where the Greek community could meet, maintain their Christian Orthodox faith and continue the customs, traditions and language of their homeland.

Today the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Sophia (Agia Sophia) continues its original purpose as a spiritual centre for Christian Orthodox worship in NSW and a social hub for the Greek-Australian community.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The internal space of the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Sophia (Agia Sophia) is highly embellished with iconography and ecclesiastical furniture that could provide further insight into the Christian Orthodox practice. It is considered that the potential for new information would be limited to the general practice of worship more so than revealing previously unknown information about the heritage value of the cathedral building.

There is also potential for archaeological exploration of this site to reveal evidence of the earlier recorded uses of the site (boarding house, synagogue).
SHR Criteria f)
[Rarity]
The Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Sophia (Agia Sophia) is not considered to be a rare example of its type as there are a number of Greek Orthodox churches throughout Sydney and NSW.
SHR Criteria g)
[Representativeness]
The Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Sophia (Agia Sophia) is of state significance as a representative example of the Christian Orthodox churches that were built to service the needs of the community of NSW.

The architectural style of the cathedral is representative of the layout of Orthodox centres of worship throughout the world. Incorporating the centralised domed cupola above the nave (to demonstrate the sky), the cathedral reflects the influence of the architectural legacy of the Byzantine style.

The interior of the cathedral, much like other Greek Orthodox places of worship, also contains rich iconographic depictions on its walls and a detailed iconostasis separating the nave and sanctuary.
Integrity/Intactness: The cathedral retains a substantial proportion of its original fabric.

The hall building underwent significant changes to its internal spaces during the 1970s with the installation of its mezzanine floor and office fit out. At the same point in time, the fenestration of the external facade was rearranged and the upper level windows installed.
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:

Recommendations

Management CategoryDescriptionDate Updated
Recommended ManagementProduce a Conservation Management Plan (CMP) 
Recommended ManagementCarry out an Archaeological Assessment 
Recommended ManagementPrepare a maintenance schedule or guidelines 
Recommended ManagementCarry out interpretation, promotion and/or education 

Listings

Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0196818 Mar 16 20492

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenYoung, Greg (ed.) et al2018Paddington - a History View detail

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

rez rez rez rez rez rez
rez rez rez rez
(Click on thumbnail for full size image and image details)

Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Heritage NSW
Database number: 5061637
File number: EF14/11142


Every effort has been made to ensure that information contained in the State Heritage Inventory is correct. If you find any errors or omissions please send your comments to the Database Manager.

All information and pictures on this page are the copyright of the Heritage Division or respective copyright owners.