Historic church’s new look

COMMUNITY spirit has helped salvage an iconic Bendigo cathedral closed in 2009 for safety reasons – and transformed the already beautiful building into something even more divine.

St Paul’s Cathedral in Bendigo, a 19th century church on Myers Street, will officially reopen on June 5 after a stunning makeover of its interior.

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The reopening will delight the cathedral’s Anglican congregation, who have spent years attending services in an adjoining building while fundraising relentlessly.

Dean of St Paul's the Very Reverend John Roundhill says more than $2 million has been spent restoring the building – and fundraising efforts are not yet over.

“Amazing generosity from lots of different people” means the building is better than ever, he says. 

“One of the biggest grants came from the government,” Mr Roundhill said.

“But I think one of the big stories is that really significant money has come from the congregation here. And from people in Bendigo; a number of generous benefactors and a number of businesses have helped.”

The finishing touches are still to come, but already the interior bears little resemblance to its former self.

Summing it up in a word, Mr Roundhill says, a defining difference between new and old is “light” – the cathedral is much brighter now. But that tells only part of the story.

“Everything from the paint on the walls, to the very floor we’re standing on, all the electrics – it’s all been changed. There’s a new sound system and the roof above us has been fixed and addressed. There’s been an immense amount of work done,” Mr Roundhill said.

“I think it looks marvellous now.”

The building, he adds, now has the ability to be an “incredibly large, flat space”, which can cater for activities beyond simple church and wedding services.

“Right in the middle – what’s called the crossing of the building – there’s a platform. This platform can go down into the ground and be completely flat. We can do concerts in here, drama.”

But it’s not quite ready. The final pieces of the puzzle – such as new carpet and chairs – are still to come.

The building was ordered shut in 2009 after material from the bell tower became dislodged during the ringing of a quarter peal for a bell ringer who had passed away. 

The Anglican Diocese of Bendigo has said the building was not structurally unsound but a number of issues needed addressing.

The floor, for example, was damp and restoration efforts have included the building of a moat around the entire building, Mr Roundhill says.

To celebrate the long-awaited reopening, two services will be held on June 5 – a public service at 10am and an invitation-only event at 3pm.