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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Taranaki, Hawke's Bay & Wellington Provincial Districts]

The Napier Cathedral

The Napier Cathedral, which is one of the largest ecclesiastical buildings in New Zealand, may be said to owe its existence to the untiring energy and zeal of the late Very Rev. De Berdt Hovell, sometime Dean of Waiapu. The scheme for its erection was taken in hand in the year 1885; in the month of September, 1886, the foundation stone was laid; and the Cathedral was conseerated and formally opened for divine worship in December, 1888.

The task of designing the Cathedral was placed in the hands of the late Mr. B. W. Mountfort, architect, of Christchurch, and the Napier Cathedral is one of his very best creations. The plan of the Cathedral may be described as nave, chancel, and transept, with a morning chapel north of the chancel, and an organ chamber on the south. At the west end of the nave there are spacious vestries, in two storeys, for clergy and choir. The nave and chancel are under one continuous roof, into which the transep roofs join at a somewhat lower levation, so that the ridge is unbroken, save where the cross shows outwardly the commencement of the chancel inside. The roof is covered with states of two colours, arranged in patterns, and finished at the sky line with a perforated tile ridge. The main walls show a series of buttresses on each side, connected together by bold arches forming recesses, each of which contains a window of a couple of lancets, with diamond perforations above and between them. The brickwork of the walls is relieved by stone string courses and flat bands of stone, and is crowned by a handsome and massive cornice. An effective use has been made of moulded bricks, both within and with page 346 out the building. The north and south transepts are entirely different in their component parts; that on the north shows three deep lofty recesses, the centre containing a triplet, and each side a couplet of lancets, also a porch of entrance below; while the south transept, over a pent porch, shows a large rectangular window, supported by a single lancet on each side, and high up in the gable a scries of four equal lancets. The great west front towers up in grand massive style, with its three large recessed arches containing windows, and the western porch below; while the lower vestry building, with its varied windows and dormer, gives great scale to this front. On entering the building by the west porch, the striking nature of the interior at once proclaims itself. In one wide span the lofty roof stretches for one hundred and seventy feet in a solemn, stately perspective to the great five-light window. This interior is unlike anything yet attempted elsewhere in New Zealand, and by its spacious effect reminds the spectator of a wide basilica. The roof is without the beam, and would exert an enormous thrust on the walls, but that this pressure is amply provided for by abutments of more than ten feet projection, which, however, save for a suitable proportion, do not show themselves outside; in fact, the buttresses are three fourths internal, and their counter butting effect is still further increased by boldly projecting the internal face of the abutments at a suitable height, on massive moulded stone corbels. Each internal buttress is piereed on the ground floor by a narrow pointed arch, which forms a passage on each side of the Cathedral for access to the seats. Each principal of the roof is framed double, and in all directions run bands of circular perforated cusped quatre-foils. All this pierced work, repeated again and again down the length of the roof, gives great lightness and play to the appearance of the perspective. The chancel has an aseent of three steps from the nave, from which it is separated by a fine screen of open work with gates. The floor of the chancel eastward of the choir stalls continues to rise until the Holy Table stands nine steps above the floor of the nave. A handsome credence of stone and tiles is arranged in the south wall.

The eastern window, of great size, has been filled with very beautiful stained glass, and was placed there in memory of the late Hon. Robert Stokes, sometime member of the Legislative Council of New Zealand; another richly-stained window has been erected to commemorate the first Bishop of the diocese, Dr. Williams; while a third, in memory of the wife of the late Mr. H. Stokes Tiffen, has been placed in the north transept. Other memorials have been erected to Captain Carr, of the Royal Artillery, Mr. Davis Canning, and Dean Hovell; while under an Agnus Dei window, in the south transept, there is a very touching inscription, on white marble, in commemoration of the eldest son of the late Dean, Hugh de St. Croix Hovell, who died under singularly sad circumstances. On the south side of the nave, opposite the north entrance, a wide arch leads to the vestries, underneath a picturesque projecting minstrel's gallery, which, is entered from the upper vestry. In the sacristry admirable paintings of Bishop Selwyn, Bishop William Williams, Bishop Stuart, Bishop W. L. Williams, Dean Hovell, and Archdeacon S. Williams, have been placed. They are from the brush of Herr Lindauer, and the credit of having secured them for the diocese is due to the Rev. J. C. Eccles, vicar of Woodville.

A new organ is now (1906) in course of construction in the Cathedral, and this instrument will be one of the largest in any church in New Zealand. It will comprise three manuals of sixty-one notes compass, and pedals of thirty-two notes, twelve pistons, twenty-one pneumatic registers, and three hitching pedals. The action throughout is on the improved tubular pneumatic principle.

Napier Cathedral.

Napier Cathedral.