Monday, January 20, 2014

St. Paul’s Cathedral, Melbourne, Australia: A Lesson In Humanity


MELBOURNE MEMORY #1 (ST. PAUL'S CATHEDRAL) - Art Culture - Tram Rides - Queen Victoria's Market - Eureka Sky Deck 88 - Captain cook's cottage - Flinder's street station - Yarra River - MCG - Federation Square - Cuisine - Extras.


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"Disappointments are just God's way of saying "I have Got Something better"
Be Patient.... Have Faith.... Trust God....." ~ Unknown


I left my hotel room a bit dejected that day. It was the start to the first day of my Melbourne trip and my candle had broken, one part loosely dangling to the other by the cotton white wick thread. Only a few days back, it had been a one piece artistic hand-made candle, bright red in color that I had so carefully wrapped in soft cotton cloth and put in my travel bag, eagerly hoping to light it in the cathedral today; now it was not fit to be lit anymore.

I was sad; my candle had broken.

A short walk  from my Citigate hotel in the heart of the city, along the busy lanes of the Flinders street slowly led me to one of the major attractions of Melbourne: St. Paul’s cathedral. Slowly, because, with every inch covered, I could see the spire growing in size, rising a little more, jutting up from over the green bushy obstacles. It was the traffic lights that stopped me in my walk.
Partial view - St. Paul's church cathedral in Melbourne, Australia
On my way to St. Paul's cathedral
As an example of true paradox, standing diagonally opposite to the cathedral, and in perfect harmony, was the historically iconic Flinders street station: one in sunshine colors and the other in earthy tones of brown, they complemented each other beautifully, completing the vibrant picture postcard that the city of Melbourne painted. While Flinders was chaotic, St Paul’s was peace.

St. Paul's as seen from the diagonally opposite end of Flinder's street station

Trams sped by and people rushed across. I gazed nearly straight up, at its steeple, now visible, in one whole, a beautiful building described in one of those guidebooks as gothic transitional architecture combining early English and decorative Gothic styles. Its spires, darker toned than the rest of the body, stood elegantly against a brilliant backdrop of monochromatic skies cloaked in shades of gray. It rose like a phoenix, stately and eternal, tall needling spires reaching out to the heavens, far above the habitation outside and the crowds below, perhaps pointing to elusiveness – to those small generous houses of God - the same place from where all our blessings come.

Vertical view of St. Paul's church cathedral in Melbourne, Australia
St Paul's Cathedral
A strange sense of anxiety gripped me as I climbed the stairs of the cathedral; or perhaps it was exhilaration that was taking stock of my senses? My Melbourne trip was about to begin in almost the same way I had envisioned it to be: By a visit to the house of the Almighty, St. Paul's Cathedral, my very first memory was to come alive!

The multi-hued door inside St. Paul's church cathedral in Melbourne, Australia
The stained glass entrance door
The multi-colored mosaic glass door opened in a vast hall reverberating in murmurings and echoes of a lot of people. Some kind of a communion service was soon to start.

The main hall at the St. Paul's church cathedral in Melbourne, Australia
The main cathedral hall
As I stepped in, in the hall, I looked around in awe; two long passages at the sides enveloped an arched central passage in the middle leading to a focal altar right in the center, the symmetry of the room was flawless. I felt tiny as I looked up at the towering pillars, awash in muted colors of blue and white and the enormous wooded arches.

Leaving the activity area, I started walking through the left passage of the hall. Here, a few benches were arranged for seating and a row of tablets graced the sidewalls.


The side walk at St. Paul's church cathedral in Melbourne, Australia
The left passage of the hall
My eyes wandered to a cross pinned on the sidewalls, which on closer inspection read:

From the grave of an unknown soldier in France who fell in the Great war.

Just below it was a tablet: In loving memory of Capt. Frederick Wilberforce Leut. Philip John Rupert Steele, Lieut Norman Leslie Steele, Alexander Steele –

A tablet on the sidewalls of St. Paul's church cathedral in Melbourne, Australia
A tablet: In memory of a few brave men
I rolled my hands on the words, finely inscribed,

Greater love hath no man than the one that lays down his life for his friends,

It was erected by their father, mother, brother and sister – more tablets of this kind followed, each covering a different tale, I could not hear them but I could feel; these were tales of valor, of remembrance, of love and sacrifice.

Moving further, something else commanded my complete attention now. Like a golden treasure, it shone bright in the center of the hall. A chain prevented me from stepping any further, at the same time; the same chains indicated this place was special. It was the sanctuary. Quite literally. A sanctuary of peace. This was the main altar and here, it was quieter. The commotion receded, there was no noise. All that remained was peace; those silences that I had always imagined St Paul’s to be.


The altar - St. Paul's church cathedral in Melbourne, Australia
Take some time for yourself: The Alter
The glow of the yellow was so strong and the distance so wide that I could hardly figure out Lord Jesus on the cross, yet in my heart I knew, He was there, somewhere. The epitome of sacrifice, the symbol of compassion, the essence of love... standing obediently in front of Him, I delved within, I searched my heart, I felt like a student recalling the messages that He strived to pass on to His children. ‘Greater love hath no man than the one that lays down his life for his friends’ resonated in the chambers.

Now walking the symmetrically opposite side of the cathedral hall, my eyes drifted to the multicolored glass stained windows above. Sunshine leaked through them like a burning furnace enlightening the massive ceiling and infusing enigma in the various characters inscribed on glass.


Lights beaming in at St. Paul's church cathedral in Melbourne, Australia
The windows of St. Paul's church cathedral in Melbourne, Australia
The sunshine stained glass windows
As if in magic of those few moments of faith and humility that I was now soaked in... that I suddenly bumped into them - placed in a container, spreading its light - the candles... yes I found them or perhaps it was the other way round. I took one from the rack, lighted it from another one and set it adequately in the bowl.

Lighting a candle - St. Paul's church cathedral in Melbourne, Australia
Light a candle, make a wish
Candles glowed outside, joy trickled inside. Now on my knees, I closed my eyes, the image of Lord Jesus flashed in the eye of my mind –  His hands stretched out in a blessing, his eyes kind and loving – The light of my candle cast flickers on my face. The cathedral exuded a wonderful symmetry not only in its architecture but also its soul. The heartwarming tablets of the brave soldiers, the compassionate altar of Jesus Christ and the beaming bowl of candles: I sensed a cumulative significance through all of them. A significance that seemed to mirror a message for all, all the troubles in today’s world. That there exists war, that there exists love and that... there exists hope. My father in heaven, holy be thy world … Both my hands pressed against each other, my lips had now begun to move, a prayer I had learnt long back, as a child in my school.

All we needed was conviction, a faith in the establishment of peace on earth and goodwill among men.

Lighting candles inside St. Paul's church cathedral in Melbourne, Australia
Our Father in heaven ...
My solitary moments in prayer served as a perfect channel to a different world, my inner zen - a place suffused in silence, a place that is full of love, hope, peace and humanity.

As I filed towards the exit prepared to step back into the chaotic hustle bustle of Melbourne, I turned back, one last time. Even as the sacred interiors of the cathedral now reverberated with countless noises, I could see the flame of my candle dancing as if whispering me a silent goodbye.


I was happy; I felt blessed. 

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Tips and helpful information for travelers:

Location:

Just opposite Federation square, at one of the busiest intersections of major landmarks:


198-206 Flinders Street

Melbourne Vic 3000

Contact details:


welcome@stpaulscathedral.org.au
www.stpaulscathedral.org.au

Opening hours


Sat: 9 am to 4 pm
On other days: 8 am to 6 pm

Timings may differ. Please ask the locals or check their official website for best accuracy.

Previous stories from Melbourne:

Melbourne Memories... in Monochrome
My Yatra Diary... Goes Melbourne!
My Melbourne Journey begins... NOW!
My Dreamliner flight to Melbourne Victoria
Where to stay in Melbourne, Citigate Hotel: A Review


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43 comments:

  1. Looks like u r having awesome time in Australia. Great write up.. ..

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  2. Hi Arti!

    I cannot remember having read such an detailed description of somebody visiting a church!!! ;-)

    Everybody who read your post was able to follow each of your steps (and thoughts) from the street, through the entrance portal and through the whole church. It strikes me that I myself was in the St. Paul's Cathedral...!!!

    Thanks for your kind comment from today.

    Have a great week!

    Uwe.

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  3. HAPPY NEW YEAR dear Arti! Love your new blogface - it's clearer and makes it easier to navigate - well done! Such a beautiful catheadral in these pictures. Love for a nice week of January adventures!

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  4. what a beautiful architecture.. what a lovely place to meditate...

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  5. What a beautiful place and your photos captured it perfectly.

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  6. Lovely description of the cathedral, Arti! I saw the place from outside but did not visit from inside! Sigh:(

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  7. A church is one of the best place to spend some peaceful moments. Nice post! Thanks for sharing!!

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  8. Arti, Wonderful post. Great to read. Beautiful photos. Keep sharing :)
    ~ da

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  9. Stained glass panels are superb. I could only imagine how blissful it would have been.

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  10. Great clicks and thumbs up for minute details...

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  11. That is such a beautiful cathedral. Lovely shots!

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  12. Deeply journey you have arti, beautiful church there, love the gothic style around the altar. Do they play orgel when you inside there..?

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    1. No Mareta :( guess there was still some time for it. I missed it, but I would love to experience that too one day, next time perhaps.

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  13. a lovely narration and nice images!!

    http://www.myunfinishedlife.com

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  14. This is such a wonderfully written piece, Arti, as usual. I could feel as if I was there. You have described your experience very nicely. Yes, God gives us light- candles included!
    First, I felt that the golden glow from the holy chamber and golden glow of sunlight served as candle. But, then you found the rack & lit the candle & fulfilled your wish!
    What can we give Him, who has all the light in the wolrd?! :)

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    1. "What can we give Him, who has all the light in the wolrd?! :)"

      Couldn't have been said any better, Anita! We can only take all that He blesses us with.

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  15. I must say this is one of the best travelogue I have read in a long time. I just loved the lines The light of my candle cast flickers on my face. The cathedral exuded a wonderful symmetry not only in its architecture but also its soul. " What a soul enriching experience, to read th is and look at the magical glow emerging from the painted glass window...

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  16. Nice story Arti - and I think lighting a candle in a church is a very powerful thing to do - and it forces you to be very present.
    Happy New Year.

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  17. Arti, This is a very moving post. To experience moments such as these when we are infused with peace and reverence is truly a gift. Thank you for taking me along.

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  18. What a beautiful description Arti:-) You had me from the first words... and then following you... Thanks for letting us do that! Wonderfully written and great pics:-)

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  19. The Cathedral must also be a wonderful refuge from the hustle and bustle of the city for those who live and work there!

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  20. A super spiritual post.
    And now-A Very Happy Birthday to you.May He shower his blessings upon you.

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  21. What a beautiful city. I would like to visit the city. Thanks for sharing. :D

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  22. i so love your narration Arti, so full of meaningful emotions, and the pictures are so inviting me, I felt like I took a walk with you too, and prayed with you

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  23. Nice narration of your moments inside the gorgeous cathedral.

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  24. Heavenly captures! Enjoyed reading your experience!

    Regards,
    Sindhu
    Tantu
    The Arts & Me

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  25. Beautifully written and photographed as always. The cathedral is beautiful.

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  26. Wow. The Cathedral looks stunning. Loved the first two pics of the Cathedral, the diagonal view and the one which keeps soaring into the heaven, rising like a phoenix. Wow, I just love the way you've described it. Having studied in a Christian school, I love everything about churches, the peace, the silence, the positive vibes and the way they are spaciously constructed. This Cathedral is just awesome. Thanks for sharing ;-)

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  27. Such a beautiful description of your visit to a beautiful cathedral!

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  28. Your visit to the cathedral is so mesmerizing to read ... I can feel the beginning of a wonderful trip to look forward to know more about melbourne : )

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  29. What a beautiful cathedral! I love visiting churches and this one is just beautiful. We were in Melbourne years ago but missed visiting this one. Those stained glass windows are stunning!

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  30. Beautiful Description and amazing photos... Was just awestruck by reading the post itself...

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  31. What a grandeur and beauty! Pressing our hands to pray and lighting a candle would be an universal act in itself for the repose of the soul and peace of the world. Thanks for taking us along with you.

    Yoko

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  32. Wonderful description and lovely pictures Arti ! Waiting to read more of your trip !

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  33. Thank you for visiting my blog and your kind comments. This is a beautiful post!
    I have another few posts you may be interested in:

    http://melbournedaily.blogspot.com.au/2012/09/st-pauls-cathedral.html
    http://melbournedaily.blogspot.com.au/2012/01/st-pauls-anglican-cathedral.html
    http://melbournedaily.blogspot.com.au/2012/06/at-st-pauls.html

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  34. What an incredible cathedral! I know this feeling of peace--I feel it when I visit old churches and abbeys; I feel it when I am out in God's cathedral (nature). Beautiful photos!
    Blessings,
    Aimee
    PS: Thanks so much for your very kind comment on my blog:)

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  35. I pray, serve and i was baptized in this church and indeed i have never seen it the way you did. I wish i could have seen you somewhere. Next time when you come let me know :)

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  36. Some quality writing that and pictures went very well with them.
    So much to learn from you Arti.
    Very well narrated.

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  37. beautiful Church and beautiful writing

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