Heritage Treasures (Number 85)

By Brian Andrews, Archdiocese of Hobart Heritage Officer

When, in 1872, St Mary’s Cathedral architect Henry Hunter designed a choir for the Presentation Sisters resident in their adjacent convent, he was obliged to use the only space that would give them a view of the high altar, namely the area immediately to the liturgical east of the sacristies and the Sacred Heart chapel.

This entailed the removal of the sacristy east windows and the covering of most of the Sacred Heart chapel window with new construction stonework. The entire amber glass in this chapel, dating from 1866, was left in place.

The result was that the window had a dull and unsightly appearance as viewed from within the cathedral, with light only admitted through its top.

In the 1980s an attempt was made to eliminate this eyesore by covering the blanked-off part of the window with a curtain. However, this remedy failed to reinstate the beauty and dignity of the chapel.

Then, after 144 years, a solution was found which entailed the creation and installation in 2016 of a beautiful new work of art, thereby restoring the devotional integrity of the space.

It was executed in egg tempera and gold leaf by the noted Melbourne liturgical artist Geoffrey Horgan, best known in Tasmania for his painted panels attached to the pulpit in Sacred Heart Church, New Town.

The work consists of six panels depicting nine saints across the ages—from St Bernard of Clairvaux (1090–1153) to St Catherine Labouré (1806–1876)—who were devoted to the loving heart of Jesus, the whole surmounted by an image of the Sacred Heart flanked by adoring angels.

The original amber glass in the window has been retained but the lace-like stonework, known as tracery, separating the glazed areas in the window has been converted effectively into ‘blind tracery’.

The term blind tracery denotes tracery where stone panelling replaces the usual glass infill, and is a decorative feature found in both medieval Gothic and Gothic Revival buildings.

In the case of our Sacred Heart Chapel window, the infill consists of the aforementioned thin panels set against the original glass, creating a ‘canvas’ for the painting of the Sacred Heart imagery.

Tags: Heritage Conservation, Hobart, Southern Deanery