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st mary's
-in-holy trinty

St Mary's-in-holy trinity

st mary's-in-holy trinity

St Mary’s Church is part of the fabric of Auckland and the memories of its citizens. Many people choose to be baptised, married and remembered here in accordance with the traditions of their families.


St Mary’s is a taonga of New Zealand and has been a well-known landmark of Auckland through several generations. However, much like St Stephen’s Chapel in Judges Bay, the timber church we see today was not the first iteration of St Mary’s.

Today’s St Mary’s Church was built to replace an earlier church of the same name when the original building proved inadequate to meet the needs of the early community in the area.

Benjamin Mountford, a well-known Christchurch architect was commissioned to design a new church to seat 800 people. His first design was for a brick and stone building which was considered to be too expensive. Mountford redesigned a wooden church, timber being a less costly building material.

The foundation stone was laid in 1886 and, by 1888, the quire and a portion of the nave were built. Bishop Cowie placed his chair in the new church which became from that time the Cathedral Church of the Diocese until the construction of the Cathedral Chancel in 1973. St Mary’s was not completed and consecrated however until 1898.



The building is made almost exclusively from heart Kauri, a New Zealand native timber, and is one of the few timber churches in the world built in the Gothic style. A small number of the oak news from the original St Mary’s Church survive in the building today.



Between 1935 and 1961 discussions took place over the building of a Cathedral for Auckland on the site chosen by Bishop Selwyn in 1843. It was always envisioned that St Mary’s would be part of the final Cathedral precinct.

In 1957 with the laying of the foundation stone and the building of the new Cathedral Chancel, the title of ‘Cathedral’ was passed from St Mary’s to what would become Holy Trinity Cathedral.

It was not until 1982 however, that St Mary’s was moved from its original site across Parnell Road to its current location alongside Holy Trinity Cathedral. The building resting on brick foundations and the whole edifice was raised hydraulically so that the lowest part of the structure was 1 metre above road level. Some three months were needed to prepare the building for its journey. The police closed Parnell Road for the day on 6 March 1982 and by the evening St Mary’s was fully across the road, placed in its present location.

Today St Mary’s is a lively part of the Cathedral precinct and is in use more than ever for weddings, funerals, baptisms and community events.


Above the entrance to St Mary’s, set in the back wall, are the Women’s Windows which were commissioned by Berenice Luke and designed by Claudia Pond-Eyley. The three top windows depict scenes of the Virgin Mary: The Annunciation, Mary as Mother and Lamentation and Crucifixion. These windows have a motif of lilies at the base. The lily is a symbol of the Virgin Mary and is especially associated with the Annunciation.

In the windows beneath memorialise many of the resourceful and determined women who shaped and fought for the social justices we enjoy in this country today. The women involved in early mission and service including Sarah Selwyn, Mary Martin and Eliza Cowie, the wife of Bishop Cowie and founder of the Women’s Home which later developed into the Anglican Trust for Women and Children are remembered here, along with the women of the Suffragette movement who led New Zealand to being the first country in the world to give women the vote. Also remembered in the women’s windows are the Melanesian Mission represented by the vessel Southern Cross, the Hikoi (walk) of Hope to Wellington in 1999, Queen Victoria School for Māori Girls in Parnell, and the community service efforts of the missionary nurses Kathleen Hall and Eunice Preece in 20th Century.

These vibrant windows created by Claudia Pond Eyley are distinctive among the stained-glass windows in St Mary’s and draw links between St Mary’s and Holy Trinity Cathedral next door.

These windows draw parallels with the windows on either side of St Mary's nave, dedicated to the wives of the early Bishops, Sarah Selwyn (south side) and Eliza Cowie (north side). Eliza Cowie's windows sits above the door through which Mrs Cowie regularly entered for services, and affectionately named 'Mrs Cowie's door.'



The baptistry, located in a small recess on the right as you enter St Mary’s houses a font which was transported from England in the 1880s. Behind the font is possibly the oldest collection of stained- glass windows in New Zealand.

Hanging from the roof above the baptistry is the banner of Sir Edmund Hillary, a Knight Commander of the Order of the Garter, which was removed from St George’s Chapel, Windsor after his death and presented to his family in 2008. The banner hangs in St Mary’s where his funeral was held in memory of one of New Zealand most famous citizens.



Like many churches across the world, St Mary’s has a brass eagle lectern which was gifted in memory of Alfred Morrisby in 1902. The eagle was a symbol in the early Church of bringing God’s word to all corners of the earth through the Gospel.

There is a number of brass plaques throughout St Mary’s which remind us that this place was a lively parish as well as a Cathedral.


Placed on the altar in St Mary’s are two candlesticks which were made from 14th Century timber rescued from a fire in York Minster, England. They were presented to Bishop Selwyn in England in 1841 ‘for his Cathedral.’ To the left of the altar, you can see Bishop Selwyn’s travelling Bishop’s throne and his folding library chair.

The central windows above the sanctuary were installed in 1910 in memory of Bishop Cowie. The three panels represent Our Lord as King, ith the words ‘All things are put underneath’; Our Lord as Prophet with the words ‘A teacher comes from God’; and our Lord as Priest with the words ‘He ever liveth who make intercession’.

Beneath, embellishing the windows from the viewers left to right, are three armorial bearings: the Auckland Diocese arms, Bishop Cowie’s personal arms, and the arms of the Cowie family.

Flanking them are the Evangelist windows depicting the first evangelists of New Zealand and the Pacific: Samuel Marsden, Bishop Selwyn, Bishop Patteson and the early Church Missionary Society who preached the gospel to the Māori peoples.

Moore Neligan, third Bishop of Auckland s commemorated in the two windows depicting St Patrick and St Aidan in the eastern wall of the sanctuary. The two windows to the west of the altar commemorate Alfred Walter Averill, fifth Bishop of Auckland, and Primate and Archbishop of New Zealand, and depict St Gregory and St Augustine.



The pulpit of St Mary’s was installed in 1898 and on its lectern which was given in memory of Bishop Gowing, is a mouse, the signature of the carver, Robert Thomas of Yorkshire.

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