At the centre of the St Mel Festival is the cathedral. It is not only the focal point, but the raison d’etre of this particular gathering. The cathedral is going through a period of rebirth where the design team marry what was lost with what remains and what will be there for the future.
The pre fire cathedral was a remarkable structure. The freestanding seven-bay Roman Catholic cathedral with cruciform-plan was started in 1840. It featured a single-bay transepts (east and west) and four-storey clergy accommodation to the rear. Aside from the main body that would have been familiar to all mass goers, was the museum to the rear.
Features of the structure that would have been overlooked by the casual observer included the moulded cornice to the parapet, the three-stage ashlar limestone Italianate campanile (on octagonal plan) with copper clad dome and lantern that were added in 1863. These had Ionic aedicules with round-headed louvered openings with mask keystones and empty niches flanked by plain pilasters and surmounted by plain entablatures.
The architecturally aware would have noted the hexastyle Ionic portico on raised stepped base with pediment over. This was added to the entrance front (south) between 1889 and 1893. It featured the iconic sculpture depicting St Patrick consecrating St. Mel. This work also included that ashlar coursed limestone walls that were added to the main body of cathedral with plain frieze and Doric pilasters.