The original timber Anglican church.
The original timber Anglican church.

Dolls give life to the cathedral


IT was 1883 and young Bella Greenaway was walking with her sister May down Duke Street. Seeing some men working, they stopped to ask what was being built.

"A cathedral," the builder answered. "But how are you getting the money?" the sisters asked. The builder explained that people would donate money as gifts to the church.

The next day, Bella and May came back with their gift ? a tiny, porcelain doll. The doll was set in the temporary western wall of Christ Church Cathedral.

Today the doll is set high above the cathedral's main entrance and its sister doll, donated by the girls' descendants, sits in a glass case inside. The story of the dolls is just one tale in the history of Christ Church Cathedral, which was opened and dedicated in 1884.

The church has seen thousands of weddings, funerals and services during its 122 years. Stan Mussared is one parishioner who was married in the glory of the cathedral ? but his wedding days posed some challenges for he and his wife Magda.

"We got married here in January of 1963," says Stan. "Unfortunately it was January so it was stinking hot inside. Then we had a flood and because it was back when the ferry was running at Harwood, it meant some of our guests couldn't make it. And it really was such a hot day ? so steamy and humid. But yes, it was a happy day," he smiles.

Around 250 people from all over Australia visit the cathedral each week, and Cathedral Women's Guild member Beryl Power guides many of them through the building.

Mrs Power obviously loves the cathedral. During her tour she points out stone fragments from Bristol Cathedral and St Augustine's Abbey, and tells stories about the pews and the font in the Baptistry, carved from alabaster marble and imported from Italy in 1914.

Like cathedrals throughout the world, Christ Church Cathedral has stunning stained glass windows illustrating the Crucifixion. But it is thought to be one of the first to have windows that opened to combat summer heat. As a result, it is cool when you walk inside. The air is still and there is a sense of peace.

At 8am each Sunday, the faithful gather at the cathedral for the first service of the day. Bells toll and the grass is still frosted with dew. Inside, the organist creates a quiet background of music ? the kind you only hear at a place of worship. Two ladies quietly catch up on news, another reads a newspaper.

Above the high alter, light pours through the main stained glass window. By the end of the service, this alter will be filled with golden sunlight and a haze of incense, lit as communion is prepared.

The harmony of the choir ech- oes into the rafters and as you look up, you cannot fail to be awe-inspired by the wonder of the brickwork, the sweeping arches and high, wooden ceiling. It is more than 100 years old, but the cathedral transformed Grafton from a town to a city, and will forever remain one of the icons of the Clarence Valley.

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