Restoration works at one of Tasmania’s oldest churches has helped emphasise that the faith of today’s Catholics is built on the faith of those who have come before, says Passionist Father Peter Addicoat. Source: Hobart Archdiocese.
Masses have been celebrated at St Joseph’s Church in Hobart since Christmas 1841. Now after years of work, the restoration of the former pro-Cathedral of the Hobart Archdiocese is complete.
Fr Addicoat, the parish priest, was serving elsewhere in Tasmania in 2004 when a conservation plan for the whole St Joseph’s complex – including the monastery – was created.
The first action was to clean and restore the large paintings of Mary with the child Jesus and St Joseph, which involved sending them to Melbourne.
Fr Addicoat says removing the paintings from their walls was a risk, but one that had to be taken.
“When the paintings were put in, they were just canvas nailed onto the wall with gold beading, and that’s all it was. So we didn’t know when we took the beading away whether the canvas would collapse and disintegrate. It didn’t, fortunately.”
He said that the cleaning revealed previously concealed details.
“If you look at Mary’s sandal, it’s got a heart on it. Now no-one would ever have seen that because it was so dirty and dark.”
As part of the restoration work, a special cabinet was acquired to preserve and display vestments belonging to the church which were designed by the Gothic Revival architect Augustus Pugin.
A large part of the restoration work involved the Church’s stained glass windows depicting the life of St Joseph, as well as images of St John the Baptist and the Sacred Heart.
Several of the windows were removed and sent to Brisbane for cleaning, others were taken to the workshop of eminent stained glass conservator Gavin Merrington in South Hobart while the final windows in the process were cleaned in situ.
The stained glass windows – particularly the St Joseph windows which tell the story of St Joseph, Mary and Jesus – have an important catechetical role in forming people’s faith and Fr Addicoat said he occasionally sees parents pointing out the story to their children.
“People come, they appreciate it, [and it] gives them a new insight into their faith. A lot of visitors come through and they take their time looking,” he said.
“It’s the preservation not just of history, but it’s recognising that our faith is built on others’ faith.”