St Peter’s Church Daylesford – Celebrate 150 years (1865 – 2015)
St Peter’s Catholic Church will acknowledge its 150th this June, with a Mass on June 14th celebrated by Bishop Paul Bird.
St Peter’s Roman Catholic Church has stood on the slopes of Wombat Hill for 150 years, serving the multi-national Catholic community of the region. Its windows are some of the finest glass in an Australian church.
The church was designed by the architect William Wardell (1823 – 1899) in a manner strongly influenced by the English architect Charles Hansom on a Crown Land Grant of 1855. It replaced a small wooden chapel that had been erected in 1856. The church’s foundation stone was laid in 1863 and it was consecrated and opened in 1865.
St. Peter’s architectural significance as a substantial stone building designed by a prominent architect, was only possible due to the wealth of the goldfields. The Catholic Church had a strong presence throughout Victoria and the goldfields during the nineteenth century with a vigorous program of church construction.
The church is a simple form with a five bay gabled nave containing geometric decorated gothic windows and stepped buttressing. The gable roof is covered in slate and the sidewalls constructed of rough-hewn local stone. The roof consists of timber beams supported by twelve stone bosses, carved to represent the heads of the twelve apostles. The magnificent east-end windows are made of Munich stained glass, depicting the Ascension. One of the most magnificent is the Holy Spirit window incorporating inch thick purple glass, normally a French design signifying royalty. The sanctuary walls have adoring angels stencilled in gold leaf and its timbered ceiling is painted sky blue.
Originally, the church had a tower in the southwest corner but this was demolished due to earth movement resulting from tunnelling in the town. The west end of the church was rebuilt in brick faced with freestone and it was at this time that the stained glass windows depicting various saints were installed.
The interior contains extensive stencilled decoration, particularly in the chancel, but this work is believed to have been done during the twentieth century and is not believed to be part of Wardell’s design. John Hennessy is reported to be the artist of the altarpiece.
The Church has recently undergone extensive restoration works. Mass will be celebrated at 10.30am at St Peter’s, followed by a luncheon at St Michael’s School, Smith St Daylesford.