St. Joseph’s Cathedral, Noumea
St. Joseph’s Cathedral is seen as making up the finial of Caledonian heritage. Our view from the marina.
Our sighting from the high street.
The tiny church of Saint Clotilde, near the hospital in Port-de-France was the first church in Noumea. It could no longer hold the growing catholic congregation and in 1874 a plot of land was allocated for the construction of a cathedral on the place known as ‘Cap Horn’. St. Clotilde’s was damaged by the cyclone of 1880 and then suffered religious theft. Works on the cathedral foundations were started in 1876 but it was only in 1887 that Father Pionnier started a subscription to raise funds for the rest of the construction. This work began in 1888 with convict labour [the original plans were drawn by a former prisoner called Labulle – later modified], and in 1890 the building was blessed by Father Xavier Montrouzier. The cathedral was consecrated by Bishop Fraysse on the 16th of June 1894. Final completion was in 1909.
Outside, we couldn’t work out who this chap was.
Transepts: two twelve metre square-shaped area. The two twenty five metre high towers hold three bells. (Originally it was intended to add spires to the tops of the towers, but the idea was abandoned given the prevalence of cyclones).
Our Lady of the Seas on the frontage of the cathedral was a gift from the Caledonian merchant seaman. Our Lady’s feet rest on the terrestrial southern hemisphere on which is inscribed ‘Ave Maria Stella’. The clock was built in the French Jura and was inaugurated here in 1912.
Narthex: A giant clam shell each side of the inner door act as fonts for the water used for blessing.
The cathedral has a Latin cross ground plan, the nave is fifty six metres long and twelve metres wide (five bays with sexpartite ogival vaults for the nave, two straight bays and five polygonal bays for the choir). The woodwork and the ogival vaults are trimmed in red kauri wood, very striking and elegant. The transept thirty six metres wide, on a south-west–north-east axis. The roof is made of corrugated metal.
The grand lustre was a gift from the nickel factory made out of the first Caledonian nickel foil in 1891, Paris.
The altar base is adorned with gold leaf. It supports the altar-piece trimmed with wreaths of corn ears and bunches of grapes. The altar was sculpted from one huge piece of stone from Mount Berard. The columns and capital carved in white veined, slightly yellowish stone from Mount Coffyn. It was carved in 1860 and comes from the Saint Louis mission church. The trimming is acacia. The lectern comes from the church of Uro on the Isle of Pines and was carved by convicts. Construction of the presbytery began in 1889.
The walls around the choir are lined with mangrove tinted wooden panelling carved in acacia and dark pine. The confessionals are made of tamanou wood in a very intricate design. The acacia wood pulpit has a Latin inscription – ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God’. The Bishop’s See shows that the cathedral is both diocesan and Mother Church.
There are twenty eight stained glass windows depicting various biblical folk. The Stations of the Cross were painted in a traditional style by Meissonier.
The pipe organ was made by the firm Cavaillé Colle of Paris and inaugurated on the 28th of April 1909, restored and enlarged in 1955 and 1977.
On the left of the entrance we could see the font through a wrought iron gate. Opposite was a matching gate leading to the spiral stairs to the towers.
A rosary hung in a panel on the information board.
The marina seen from the cathedral steps.
ALL IN ALL A LOVELY BUILDING
RELATIVELY POSH FOR A PACIFIC ISLAND