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St Francis Xavier Cathedral, Geraldton

Geraldton Francis Xavier

Geraldton Francis Xavier
The sunken outdoor worship space, no longer in existence

Geraldton Francis Xavier
The 1980 F J Larner & Co organ

Geraldton Francis Xavier

Geraldton Francis Xavier

Geraldton Francis Xavier
Dominic Perissinotto and Anthony Pope in concert

Geraldton Francis Xavier
Detail of the organ casework

Geraldton Francis Xavier

Geraldton Francis Xavier
The 2017 Pipe Organs of W.A. organ

Geraldton Francis Xavier
The western gallery

Geraldton Francis Xavier
The Larner console in the western gallery

Geraldton Francis Xavier
The Cantoris organ and mobile console

Geraldton Francis Xavier
Console views by Dominic Perissinotto

Geraldton Francis Xavier

Geraldton Francis Xavier

Geraldton Francis Xavier
Inside the Cathedral

Geraldton Francis Xavier
The new carillon bells at the foundry

Geraldton Francis Xavier
The new bells prepared for the dedication at Geraldton

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
Previous organ(s)
Date of previous organ 1980-81
Detail of previous organ F.J. Larner & Co built a freestanding organ in the left chancel.

The organ featured polished Jarrah casework, Great above Swell with two flanking Pedal towers.
There were two manuals and pedal in a reverse facing console, mechanical key action and electro-pneumatic stop action with 17 stops controlling 19 ranks and a total of 960 pipes in three divisions.

Accessories included 6 adjustable general combination pistons, balanced Swell pedal. There was a tremulant on the Swell and the couplers were Swell - Great, Swell - Pedal, Great - Pedal
Manual key compass was CC=g (56 notes)
Pedal compass was CCC-F (30 notes)

Principal 8' Display
Chimney Flute 8'
Octave 4'
Twelfth 2-2/3'
Flagelot 2'
Tierce TG 1-3/5'
Mixture 19.22 II
Hohl Flute 8' Wood
Gemshorn 8' 1993
Spitz Flute 4'
Principal 2'
Quint 1-1/3'
Cymbal 26.29 II
Subbass 16' Wood
Gedecktbass 8' Wood
Choral Bass 4'
Bassoon 16' 1993
Dates when key work has been undertaken Organ was completed by F.J. Larner & Co in 1993-94 with the addition of Swell Gemshorn and Pedal Bassoon.
Dates of any moves that have taken place The organ was taken down and a new instrument constructed in 2017. This organ was subsumed into the new instrument.
Variations from original design of organ None
Information on previous organ This organ was the first mechanical action instrument to be built with a reversed console in Western Australia. Trackers ran in three tiers under the console platform into the organ body. The tracker action incorporated floating backfall beams to adjust to temperature extremes found in Geraldton so that the depth of touch at the keys remained constant throughout the year.
This organ was an oustanding instrument in tone, finish and playability - said to be the finest of the John Larner organs.

Detail of the organ taken from the opening booklet (1981) and from observation of the instrument by Bruce Duncan.
Information about comparable instruments to previous organ John Larner built many instruments for Western Australia. Please refer to the Organ Builders index.
Present organ
Type of installation Gallery and chancel
Case description Polished Jarrah
Placement in room West 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) manuals on mobile console
Two (2) manuals on 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 Slider
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 In the Gallery between cases (console from previous organ)
A mobile console is located in nave
Stop label material
Placement Gallery console has drawstops on angled jambs
Mobile console is 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 built in 1980-81 and then completed by F.J. Larner & Co in 1993-94 with the addition of Swell Gemshorn and Pedal Bassoon.

New organ developed 2017 by Pipe Organs of WA with John Larner acting as tonal director.
Carillon added to the organ in November 2019.
Dates of any moves that have taken place to current organ None
Information on current organ An outstanding instrument.
Since the organ was completed the Cathedral commissioned an automatic carillon, which was subsequently installed in the western towers in 2019. The 27 bells range in size from 40 kilograms to one tonne. They were been made by the foundry of John Taylor & Co, Loughborough, United Kingdom. Eight of the bells were obtained from the parish church of Saints Peter and Paul in Godalming, England, and were tuned down to form the lower tones and semi-tones. Nineteen new bells were cast to complete the carillon. The bells are tuned to modern concert pitch and are sounded by electro-magnetic hammers. Three of the largest bells are hung for slow swinging and are swung by electric motor.

The carillon is played from the organ consoles and can also be played through the internet from anywhere in the world. The bells are programmed to ring the quarter hours between 8am and 6pm every day. They can play specific tunes for weddings, funerals and baptisms as well as birthday or other community events. The Apollo control unit will also play hymns and tunes at various times throughout the day as well as the anthem of any country celebrating a National Day. English change ringing can also be programmed.

This is the only carillon and operating system of its type in the Southern Hemisphere and is said to be Australia's largest church carillon.
Comparable instruments to current organ
Current status In excellent condition and regular use
Assessment of organ
Other organs by this builder Refer to be Western Australian Pipe Organ Builders index
Photographs Photograph of church exterior from Britannica Photographs of church interior and Larner organ by Bruce Duncan.
Photographs of new 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 Original entries J R Elms, OAM, Gazetteer of Western Australian Pipe Organs, 1971, 1999,2003 and 2004.
Entry on Larner organ by D B Duncan 08 January 2009.
Additional detail from F J Larner & Co brochure, 2000.
Organ subsumed into new instrument 2017.
This entry created by Bruce Duncan 18 March 2018.
Information on carillon by Bruce Duncan 19 Jan 2021