On 27 June, Fr Robert Cross visited Geraldton to give a talk to the Cathedral Tour Guides on understanding the symbolism in the architecture and art of St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral.
Fr Robert spoke about how as a child he would attend Mass in the Cathedral which was his parish church. He said he was mesmerised by the art, architecture and the liturgies of the Cathedral and drawn into an encounter with God here in God’s house. It is this experience that Hawes would have hoped for, for all who enter his Cathedral.
Fr Robert went onto explain how in antiquity, altars and temples were built in places where people encountered God. He said that this Cathedral as with all Churches remind us of the presence of God in the midst of our community. He said that atop the dome of the Cathedral is what is architecturally termed the “lantern”. The Church is a lantern in our society, a light to guide us to refuge in the storms of life.
Fr Robert said that here in the Cathedral we encounter Christ, in its architecture, its symbols and most importantly in the Sacraments. He said that here in St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral, he himself was baptised, made his first confession, first communion, was confirmed and was later ordained a priest.
Fr Robert spoke about how Monsignor Hawes was influenced by the Arts and Crafts Movement of the 19th and early 20th centuries in his design of the Cathedral. This movement he said was a reaction against industrialisation and called artists, architects poets etc. back to an appreciation of the work of their own hands. It was a style organic and simple, utilising local materials and reactive to the over ornate style of gothic and rococo art and architecture. At the same time, Fr Robert said.
Hawes was a master of the eclectic, and wonderfully combined a variety of architectural styles into a true harmony in the Geraldton Cathedral, architectural styles that ranged from Romanesque, Norman, Gothic and Byzantine.
Fr Robert then spoke about particular features of the art Hawes had placed in the Cathedral.
It is hoped that a small booklet will be produced as a result of Fr Robert’s talk to help people “read” and appreciate the art and architecture of St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral.