Telling the stories of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, NZ and Polynesia

Selwyn’s vision, fulfilled

Auckland's Holy Trinity Cathedral is on the eve of its consecration - 174 years after New Zealand's first bishop bought the site on which it stands.

Taonga News  |  27 Oct 2017  |

In 1843, a year after he’d stepped off a sailing ship and set foot in Auckland for the first time, Bishop Selwyn bought a parcel of land at what is now 446 Parnell Rd.  

He had lofty ambitions for that site – an Anglican cathedral, no less.  

Tomorrow afternoon, 174 years later, Selwyn’s dream for that site will be fulfilled, when Holy Trinity Cathedral is consecrated.  

Holy Trinity is, in fact, the last cathedral to be consecrated in New Zealand – a process which can only happen when the building is a) debt-free, and b) finished.  

The completion of the structure didn’t happen until August last year, which is when the Bishop Selwyn chapel – with its curved gold ceiling, floating above a translucent glass box – and located at the Newmarket end of the cathedral, was dedicated.

Pulling out all the stops... 

Then, when the chapel building was finished, work began on installing a new $4.5 million organ for the cathedral – and that 5000 pipe organ was dedicated in June this year.  

In fact, work on the cathedral didn’t even begin until 1957, some 114 years after Selwyn had bought the site. 

That’s when the foundation stone for the brick chancel was laid, and that chancel wasn’t completed until 1973.  

Then in 1982, St Mary’s – the Benjamin Mountfort designed wooden gothic church which had served as Auckland’s Cathedral since 1897 – was hoisted from its foundations, trundled 100m across Parnell Rd and replanted beside the cathedral, where it still functions as a house of worship.  

In 1991, work began on the modern Professor Richard Toy-designed cathedral nave, which was completed in 1995 – and whose three-gabled roof is the subject of 10,000 photos, and icon of the modern Holy Trinity Cathedral.  

175 years of dreaming

The Bishop of Auckland, the Rt Rev’d Ross Bay, will lead tomorrow’s consecration service.  

He says the completed Cathedral is the culmination of 175 years of dreaming – and sacrificial labour to fulfil those dreams.   

“The first Bishop of Auckland, Bishop Selwyn, offered us the vision of a cathedral to serve the people of Auckland,” he says.  

“It is very exciting for our generation to see that vision fulfilled, and to be able to offer Holy Trinity Cathedral to God for that purpose.  

The present Dean of Auckland, Anne Mills, said that the cathedral provides a space to “look out to the city”, describing it as “a space for church and for city.”

“Bishop Selwyn purchased the land where the Cathedral sits,” she says, “and described its purpose as to be a ‘centre for educational, social, charitable and missionary work’. He was looking to the future and so this generation has a place where there can be joy and lament as well as an expression of local and international concerns.”

Bishop Selwyn arrived in New Zealand in 1842 and returned to the United Kingdom in 1868, where he served as the Bishop of Lichfield until his death in 1878.  

The present Bishop of Lichfield, Dr Michael Ipgrave, will attend the consecration service along with bishops from New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific.  

The previous Dean of the Cathedral, Jo Kelly-Moore, who drove ‘Selwyn’s Vision’ – the $15 million project to build the Bishop Selwyn Chapel and to install a new organ – will also attend the service.  

She left Holy Trinity at the beginning of this year to become the Archdeacon of Canterbury in England, and Vice-Dean of Canterbury Cathedral.