St Patrick's Cathedral's Peal of Bells
The bells - ranging in weight from 150 to 450 kilograms – have been installed in the spire of the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. They accompany the St Patrick bell, donated by
St Patrick's Church Cathedral parishioners commemorating Monsignor John Rigney and his life of faithful service.
Six of the bells are over 100 years old and were sourced from St Paul's Anglican Church in Widnes, Liverpool, England.
An additional two bells, including the tenor bell, were newly cast at John Taylor Bell Foundry in Leicestershire, England.
Together, the eight bells were tuned into an octave in the key of A Major at Matthew Higby & Co., Holcombe, Bath, England.
Prelude to a Peal of Bells
St Patrick's Cathedral, Parramatta - the 'Cradle of Catholicism in Australia', is steeped in history and Catholic tradition. It is home to the site of the first Roman Catholic Church dedicated to St Patrick in Australia. It has the oldest Catholic parish school chapel in Australia and the oldest mortuary chapel. The first convent, Sisters of Charity, was established here and the first nun was professed in Parramatta.
On 19 April 1803, a proclamation by NSW Governor Captain Philip Gidley King at Government House, Parramatta permitted Rev Fr James Dixon to say Mass at Sydney, Parramatta and Hawkesbury. Parramatta's first Mass was on 22 May 1803, in the vicinity of the present-day Cathedral. The foundation stone for the first St Patrick's Church was laid on St Patrick's Day 1836 and was consecrated on 28 May 1837.
Talk of raising a set of bells in St Patrick's dates to 1853, when the second St Patrick's Church was remodelled to accommodate twice as many parishioners as the first. Plans for that new Church were described "as being of purely Gothic architecture that embraced a noble spire crowning the tower, in which a sonorous chime of sweet-toned bells would enliven with many a peal, the inhabitants of Parramatta."
The new St Patrick's was consecrated in 1854, but it wasn't until 1878 that the foundation stone for the bell tower and spire was laid.
By 1904, a peal of bells was yet to be realised, but a single bell, named after St Patrick, was hung in the spire to commemorate parish priest Monsignor John Rigney and his life of service.
"Patrick" chimed faithfully for 92 years, until 19 February 1996, when our beloved Cathedral and spiritual home of our Catholic family, was destroyed by fire. Only the stone walls remained.
Stranded in the charred ruins of the tower, "Patrick" was removed for cleaning and conservation.
In 2003, "Patrick" was restored to the spire of the newly completed St Patrick's Cathedral, to again call the faithful to Mass and prayer, and to ring in The Angelus.
Heralding St Patrick's Peal of Bells
During the Cathedral's building and restoration, provision was made for a peal of eight change-ringing bells to accompany "Patrick".
The Parish of Parramatta was established under an English Benedictine Archbishop of Sydney, so it was fitting that we embrace this esteemed tradition of bell ringing, calling God's people to worship and expressing the hopes and joys of the community. At the time, there were other more pressing needs in ensuring that a new St Patrick's Cathedral would arise from the ashes.
On 29 November 2003, the new St Patrick's Cathedral was dedicated, rebuilt through the love, faith, commitment, enthusiastic efforts and generosity of our community.
Throughout St Patrick's history, two constants have remained - the faithful support of our parishioners and their strong sense of community - and the dream of a peal of bells to call our community to prayer and worship.
The chime of Church bells invites us to pause and reflect, reminding us of God's presence and the intrinsic roles that our faith and the Church play in our lives.
With the continued generosity and support of our community, the Bells of St Patrick's Cathedral were installed into the Cathedral bell tower in December 2020.
A melodious peal of bells are a glorious musical addition to St Patrick's Cathedral, resonating daily, calling us to worship, and in glory to God.
Bell ringing commences 10.30am Sundays. If you would like to enquire about learning to ring, please contact Fr Christopher del Rosario.
For more information about bell ringing in Australia and New Zealand, please visit the Australian and New Zealand Association of Bellringers.