Bunbury cathedral demolished

The 84 year old St Patrick's Cathedral of Western Australia's Bunbury Diocese was demolished at 10:45 am yesterday, after it was condemned by structural engineers following tornado damage earlier this year.

The Diocese reports that the tower and spire were the first parts of the building to crash to the ground, followed by the rest of the imposing structure. Dust surrounded the Cathedral as it fell and the city looked on in sadness.

St Patrick's, which stood on a site overlooking the large regional city in the state's south-west, began life as a parish Church.

"Many people had visited the Cathedral since the tornado and on Sunday 26th June, people gathered in St. Mary's Church to remember and pray," said the statement sent to CathNews from the Diocese. "Now it is time to look to the future construction of a new St. Patrick's Cathedral."

The West Australian reports today that people gathered at several vantage points to watch a 40-tonne excavator pull strategically positioned steel cables up to 60m long. Multiple cables ran up the side of the 35m tower and spire and around 12 columns inside the cathedral.

The tower and spire, which it was initially hoped could be saved, were brought down first, with the rest of the already-teetering brick and tile building following.

Among those watching were Dennis Maher and Blue Hastie, who were altar boys at St Patrick's in the 1930s and 40s. As the tower crumbled they recalled climbing the steps to the top to ring the bell for Sunday Mass.

Mr Hastie's grandfather, Robert Hastie, built the original pulpit, which was among valuables rescued from the cathedral in the days immediately after the storm.

More than 100 pews, statues, paintings, vestments and sacred vessels were also recovered along with about 20 stained-glass windows removed by the demolition team on Monday.

The altar could not be removed but it is hoped the holy relic stored within it can be recovered after the site cleanup.

"It's very sad, not just for the people of the church but for the whole town. They should build a replica on this site," Mr Hastie said.

Bishop Gerald Holohan said it was heartbreaking to see a holy building and important community landmark reduced to rubble.

Extensive structural assessments were done after the storm but it was soon clear the building could not be saved.

Built in 1921, St Patrick's became a cathedral in 1954. The spire was added another 10 years later.

Bishop Holohan said it would be up to the community to decide what sort of replacement was built. Parishioners and interested people would be asked to fill out a questionnaire over the next few weeks.

Although the building was insured, Bishop Holohan said some fundraising would be needed because the Church had already faced considerable costs in the wake of the storm and a bigger cathedral would be needed for the growing community.

As well as sorting out plans for a new cathedral, the Bunbury diocese faces the task of demolishing an adjoining block of flats - also ripped apart by the storm - and repairing the damaged parish house.

Cathedral comes down (Diocese of Bunbury 6/7/05)
Catholic history in ruins (The West Australian 6/7/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Catholic Diocese of Bunbury

Pope sympathises with Bunbury over Cathedral loss (CathNews 27/6/05)
Storm-damaged cathedral to be demolished (CathNews 31/5/05)
Tornado-damaged Cathedral may face demolition (CathNews 23/5/05)

6 Jul 2005