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Console views by Dominic Perissinotto


Name of institution St Francis Xavier Cathedral
Type of institution Catholic Church
Street Address Cathedral Avenue
City Geraldton
State Western Australia
Postcode 6530
Country Australia
Name of building St Francis Xavier Cathedral
Name of room
Dates of the building 1916-1938
Architect’s and builder’s names

Priest architect John Cyril Hawes arrived in Geraldton in 1915 to take up the parish priest position. He started work on the cathedral straight away.  The cathedral’s foundation stone was laid in 1916 and the building was completed in 1938.

Special architectural features The Cathedral is of the Inter War Romanesque period and style of architecture, although the HCWA Register Entry and assessment by Ian Molyneux, attributes it principally as Arts & Crafts whilst acknowledging Romanesque influences and elements.   "St Francis Xavier Cathedral, through manipulation of the site in the Arts & Crafts manner, generates a cultural environment in its own right.  The aesthetic qualities include a deliberate synthesis of aesthetic experiences, Hawes, himself, attributed a Roman style to St Francis Xavier Cathedral, with features from the Norman-Romanesque (11th Century) and Renaissance (17th Century) and admitted to borrowing the towers from the Californian Franciscan missions of San Luis Rey and Santa Barbara (18th & 119th Centuries)."

The Cathedral is built of local Geraldton stone, and confidently employs wide-span arches and skillfully laid rubble and ashlar.  Rendered mouldings emphasise openings and decoration, providing contrast against the textured stonework.  The  main form of the building follows the east-west axis which is accentuated, at the western end, by twin, stepped towers either side of the  Romanesque arched entry and recessed baroque styled, elevated gable end which terminates the nave. The stepped, or tiered, dome capped towers are octagonal in plan at the upper levels over square, ground floor bases.  At the lower level, the northern tower has louvered circular openings originally intended for clocks whilst the southern tower has vertical arched openings.  Together with a large octagonal dome at the crossing with the minor north-south axis, the towers dominate the Cathedral. 

To the east a smaller, circular, 15th century chateaux style tower, identifies the sacristy externally and provides a visual contrast or incongruity to the overall Romanesque character of the Cathedral.  Thought to be a later addition, this tower is more reminiscent of Hawes’ Northampton, St Mary’s in Ara Coeli Church (1936).  The higher central nave is given expression externally by the lower roofed aisles with their rendered arched windows and decoration. 
Special fittings

The interior features Romanesque columns, huge arches beneath an octagonal dome and zebra striping of the walls. Needless to say the architecture is a blend of styles.  In as far as the design it may be said it follows the round arched classical style of ancient Rome.  The twin towers of the west from are very much like the Californian Mission Church in Santa Barbara and the large central dome over the crossing has a fleeting resemblance to Brunellesci's famous Cupola in Florence.

The first thing that strikes most people about the interior of the building is its colouring  - arranged in stripes of grey with orange markings. It resembles the fashion of many churches and cathedrals of Italy, such as Sienna and Orvieto.  Visitors who have visited the Great Mosque at El Cordoba, Spain also remark on the similarity of interior design, albeit on a much smaller scale, and the colour scheme.
Other location information
St Francis Xavier Cathedral is a spectacular church in the centre of Geraldton that you will find as magnificent on the inside as it looks from the outside. Designed by the parish priest John Hawes, it took 22 years to build.
Name of contact
Mailing Address
Telephone 08  9483 1111
Other contact information
Date of previous organs
Detail of previous organs 1980 F.J. Larner & Co built a freestanding organ in the left chancel which had polished Jarrah casework, Great above Swell with two flanking Pedal towers. The organ was provided with a reverse facing console.
Details can be seen at this link.
Dates when key work has been undertaken
Dates of any moves that have taken place
Variations from original design of organ
Information on previous organs
Information about comparable instruments to previous organs
Present organ
Type of installation Gallery and chancel
Case description Polished Jarrah
Placement in room rear gallery and north transept
Builder's name Pipe Organs of WA
Opus number
Date of completion/installation 2017
Construction materials
Number of manuals Three (3) (mobile console) and Two (2) (gallery console)
Key compasses CC-ggg
Number of keys 56
Key material
Pedal compass CCC-F
Number of pedals 30
Pedalboard type
Pedalboard material
Type of chests
Type of key action Electric
Type of stop action Electric

Sw – Gt
Sw – Gt Sub
Cant – Gt
Sw – Cant
Sw – Ped
Gt – Ped
Cant – Ped
Sw sub
Sw super
Cant super
Gt & Ped Comb Coupled

Tremulants Swell

10 General pistons
6 Divisionals to each division
6 Reversible coupler pistons
Sequencer Next, Previous
Memory levels UP and DOWN
Full Organ
Control panel with 2 line LED and 6 buttons for accessing functions.

Console type Gallery between cases, mobile in nave
Stop label material
Placement Terraced
General design
Playing aids Balanced Swell pedal
Divisions    Great, Swell, Cantoris, Pedal
Wind pressures
Stop list
Principal 8' 56 new
Rohr Flute 8'
Principal 4'
Harmonic Flute 4' 56 new
Twelfth 2-2/3'
Fifteenth 2'
Fourniture IV   224 new
Trompette 8' 56 new
Hohl Flute 8'  
Gemshorn 8'
Celeste 8' 44 new
Spitz Flute 4'
Flagelot 2'
Quintlein 1-1/3'
Oboe 8"
Subbass 16'  
Principal 8' borrowed GT
Flute bass 8'  
Fifteenth 4'
Bassoon 16'
Principal 8'
Stopped Diapason 8' 56 recycle A
Dolce 8' 56 new
Celeste 8' 44 new
Principal 4' 56 new
Trompette 8' from GT
Sub Bass 16' 12 new A

Total number of stops 27
Total number of ranks 24
Total number of pipes 1328
Dates when key work has been undertaken on current organ First Organ was completed by F.J. Larner & Co in 1993-94.  Addition of Swell Gemshorn and Pedal Bassoon.
New organ developed 2017 by Pipe Organs of WA with John Larner acting as tonal director.
Dates of any moves that have taken place to current organ None
Information on current organ An outstanding instrument
Comparable instruments to current organ
Current status In excellent condition and regular use
Assessment of organ  
Other organs by this builder
Photographs Photographs of organ by Graham Devenish and Dominic Perrisinotto
Technical documents   
General documents Architectual information from City of Geraldton-Greenough
Information about the cathedral from the Geraldton Diocese
In The Pipeline, February 2018
Supporting information
Document control This entry D B Duncan 18 March 2018.