Sacred Heart College chapel



Construction and Architecture

The chapel at the convent, completed in 1874 under the direction of ​Mother Xavier Maguire, is a distinguished example of 19th-century ​Gothic Revival architecture. Its construction spanned from 1863 to 1874 ​and involved multiple architects. Initially designed by John Bourke of ​Dublin, the plans underwent significant modifications by William Wardle ​before being finalised by T.A. Kelly of Melbourne, who was responsible ​for the chapel’s construction. The stonemasons, brought over from ​Ireland, executed the building work.

Key Milestones

  • Completion and Blessing: The chapel was completed in 1874. Due to ​Archbishop Goold's absence in Rome, Dean Fitzpatrick performed ​the blessing and opening ceremony on May 24, 1874.
  • Side Chapel Addition: In 1877, a side chapel was added, designed by ​architect Alexander Davidson.
  • Post-Vatican II Changes: After Vatican II, the altar was moved forward ​to allow the priest to face the congregation during mass. In 1966, the ​central supporting pillar, which divided the main chapel from the ​boarders’ chapel, was removed to improve the view of the altar for ​the boarders.
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Structural Issues and Restoration

By 2010, the chapel exhibited extensive cracking, initially attributed to drought. ​Further inspection revealed the structural risk caused by the removal of the ​central pillar. Consequently, the chapel was closed for two years for ​comprehensive restoration:

  • Reinstatement of the Pillar: The central supporting pillar was restored.
  • Roof Replacement: The slate roof, damaged by cockatoos, was replaced.
  • Interior Restoration: This included new heating and lighting, remodelling of ​the high altar, and repainting of the sanctuary dome and chapel walls.
  • Craftsmanship: A new altar and lectern were crafted by Scott Ballan from ​original redgum beams found to be rotting in the subfloor.

Final Touches

The chapel received its final embellishment with an ornate sanctuary lamp ​imported from Dublin, which originally hung in St Patrick’s Hall. This lamp, ​along with the other restorations, reinstates the chapel's historical and ​architectural significance.

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James Alipius Goold, first Archbishop of Melbourne, went to Ireland to request the Sisters ​of Mercy to establish a community in Geelong in 1859. The invitation was accepted and ​five sisters and a novice, including Mother Xavier Maguire arrived in Geelong on 3 ​December, 1859.

To Mother Xavier and the sisters at Geelong, Archbishop Goold proved to be a true friend ​and benefactor, visiting the convent often, celebrating mass, assisting with elections of ​superiors and overseeing professions.

In a letter dated January 25, 1864, Mother Xavier writes to the Baggot St convent,

We had a nice quiet ceremony on the Feast of the Holy Name. Sr. Eliza now Sr. M. Juliana. The ​ceremony was in the evening, and the Bishop preached a little sermon. He is all we would wish, ​and does everything to make us happy – most kind to me, and leaves me free to act. Thanks be ​to God for all His goodness to me and for removing so entirely all my most bitter crosses.

When Archbishop Gool died in 1886, he bequeathed to the Geelong convent his chalice, ​inscribed with his name and given to him by Pope Pius IX on a visit to the Vatican, and ​also his embossed silver tea and coffee service.

A legacy of £2338.15.3 from the estate of the late Archbishop was received in 1888 as well ​as another legacy of £60 and a £50 donation towards the convent cemetery. Also left to ​the sisters was an alabaster and marble crucifix made by the Italian sculptor Guiseppe ​Andrea in Pisa in 1856.

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Elizabeth Maguire, later known as Mother Xavier, was born in 1819 in Newgrange, County Meath, Ireland. She was one of fifteen children of Richard Maguire, a wealthy landowner, and his wife Margaret. On May 1, 1843, Elizabeth entered the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy, adopting the name Xavier.

In 1855, Mother Xavier became the superior of the original Mercy convent at Baggot Street, Dublin. During Bishop James Alipius Goold’s visit to Dublin in 1859, he invited her to establish a community in his Geelong parish. She and five sisters accepted, sailing from Liverpool on the Ocean Chief and arriving in Melbourne in 1859.

Initially residing at St Augustine’s orphanage, they soon moved to a house in Newtown. Despite challenges such as debt and illness, Mother Xavier oversaw the construction of a large bluestone building that housed nuns, orphans, court-referred girls, school boarders, and day pupils. In 1863, architect J.L. Shaw supervised the building of the first wing of this complex, designed to accommodate fifty orphans. Mother Xavier also founded St. Joseph’s Industrial School for teenage girls who had been sentenced by the courts, abandoned, or deemed uncontrollable.

Mother Xavier passed away on August 30, 1879, at age sixty, after spending much of her later years in a wheelchair. By her death, she had overseen the completion of three wings of the complex, including the convent, chapel, orphanage, and boarding school. Her efforts left a lasting impact on the care and education of girls in Geelong.

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Thomas Anthony Kelly was born in Dublin, Ireland, in September 1840 to Thomas Hawkesworth Kelly and Jane (Fox) Kelly. Baptized at St Mary’s Cathedral on September 24th, 1840, his godparents were Edward Fox and Ellen Kelly. His family, originally landowners, had become educated urban professionals by the late 18th century.

Kelly became an architect, gaining early recognition by entering the Carlisle Bridge design competition in 1862. At 22, he was appointed supervising architect for the Royal Marine Hotel at Dun Laoghaire, Ireland in 1863. From 1864 to 1867, he lived at Lower Ormond Quay, Dublin, during which he also competed to design the O'Connell Monument.

In 1868, Kelly emigrated to Victoria, Australia, during Melbourne’s gold rush boom. This period offered abundant opportunities for architects. His Irish connections helped him integrate into the local Catholic community, where he designed several notable churches and schools, contributing significantly to Melbourne's early architecture. He worked closely with William Wardell and Archbishop Goold, designing and building churches, notably in Geelong the Convent of Mercy chapel and St Mary’s church. In February 1873, Kelly married Catherine Bullen in Melbourne. Catherine's family was affluent and involved in building and development, providing her with a substantial dowry. Their marriage was highlighted in "The Argus" on February 26, 1873.

Kelly moved to Sydney in 1882, continuing his architectural career. He was a prominent member of the Australian Institute of Architects, and his work left a lasting impact on Melbourne's architectural heritage. His contributions were still recognized in publications up to 1889, indicating his significant influence on the profession.

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