Sydney Architecture Images- Northern Suburbs

St. Patrick’s Seminary (now a business/hospitality school)


Sherin and Shennessy


Darley Street Manly   




Victorian Free Gothic


stone facade




St. Patrick’s Seminary has stood in its commanding position overlooking the Manly and its surrounds for over a century, attracting the eye and curiosity of both locals and visitors.

In 1859 the Catholic Church was granted 60 acres of land on North Head Reserve to build a Catholic residence.  For almost 30 years this land stood vacant until it caught the imagination of Archbishop Moran upon his arrival to Australia in 1884. 
“During an excursion around Sydney Harbour….. the church lands were pointed out to His Grace, probably with a degree of humour by those who regarded the uninspiring hillside an impossible legacy.  But Dr Moran saw further than the wilderness of rock and the wild riot of tea-tree scrub.  A vision came over all, a dream of a college to be a creation of delicately worked freestone, crowned with a massive Norman tower, raised high above the tossing sea.” (PM Haydon – Cradle Days of Manly.)

Construction of the College began in June 1885 with 325 men on the payroll and occupied a little over three years.  Stone was initially quarried from North Head with the finer stone coming from Pyrmont by boat.  The extensive timbers are predominantly Kauri Pine and Australian Cedar.  Gothic in Style with Spanish flavour, the College at four storeys high with a six level central bell tower covers 60,000 square feet.

At the opening of the college on the 23rd January 1889, Cardinal Moran responded to early criticism of its grandiosity – “Some may think that a seminary on so large a plot is not required. But I look to the future. In erecting this seminary, I shall meet the want of all Australian dioceses…” Speakers vied with each other in lauding the Cardinal and praising the magnificent proportions of the building, which was said to be one of the finest edifices of its kind in the wold.

It has stood firm both as an Alma Mater for the priesthood and as a centre for great religious gatherings and celebrations through wars and depressions.  The Cardinal Cerretti Chapel was built in the difficult year 1934; there were 127 trainees in 1942 when the building was blacked out in case of air raids. It saw the introduction of electricity, of radio, of television and great social changes.

Many outstanding and famous Church leaders – too numerous to name – have held appointments at St. Patrick’s and greatly influenced those who trained there.  Records show that at the time of the Centenary, 1714 men had been ordained and gone forth from the college.  These include Cardinals Gilroy, Freeman, Cassidy and Clancy and 41 Bishops.

The contribution of St Patrick’s through its Alumni, has made to religious life and faith, to education, to caring for the needy, to the development of a social conscience and to the general community welfare cannot be measured.  It must be forever remembered.

In November 1995, The Australian Tourism Group and the Roman Catholic Church for the Archdiocese of Sydney, undertook a major refurbishment of St Patrick’s College to transform it into the International College of Management, Sydney.

The College now houses over 800 students from 65 countries and continues the traditions of striving for excellence and supporting the local community.

  St Patrick's College, Manly, seminary becomes a hotel school!
Tony Abbott

For more than 100 years, St Patrick's College has stood guard over Manly beach - a reminder that surf, sun and sand is not the sum total of human striving. Perched on the ocean side of North Head, it is the most spectacular building in Sydney after the Opera House. Now, to cope with fewer seminarians and higher maintenance costs, the Church has concluded a 30-year lease to an international hotel school - and the college tower, which once served as finger beckoning man to God, will soon, so to speak, summon patrons to their table.

When St Patrick's College opened in 1889, it was a sign of the faith, courage and self-confidence of the local Church. Cardinal Moran boasted that it would be the "finest institution in the Australias" and wanted it to be the heart of a Catholic university of United Australia. It is the biggest, oldest and most celebrated seminary in Australia - and by providing an alternative to training in Dublin or Rome was midwife to the birth of a local priesthood.

Tom Keneally's first books were about his experiences there. Like many others, Keneally was repelled by its intellectual ordinariness and lingering Irishism. One of his contributions to dragging the priestly training of the 1960s into the real world was to substitute "God Save the Queen" for "Hail Queen of Heaven" to open the seminary play.

Now that the seminary has gone, my thoughts echo those attributed to Henry II: alive I did wish him dead; dead I do wish him alive.

The Church leasing St Patrick's is as significant as the royals leasing Buckingham Palace. It is the ecclesiastical equivalent of the fall of Singapore.

To those running the Church in Sydney, leasing St Patrick's makes perfect sense. Why maintain a vast building for a handful of students? But they are thinking like lawyers, not leaders; vacating St Patrick's is not leaving a building - it is abandoning a sacred site.

Of course, the arrangement means more money for Catholic schools, hospitals, retirement villages and so on - but less money for the Catholic faith upon which the whole exercise is supposed to turn. Why couldn't the former seminary have been turned into the administrative centre of a university or into the chancery of the Archdiocese? If the Church needed money, why couldn't it have sold its office buildings and kept its soul?

One should not be too hard on Church managers in Sydney. They have hundreds of properties to maintain, thousands of staff to support, dozens of services to continue. But how compatible is this commonsense with providing inspiration to lead lives of heroic virtue?

There is a presumption about someone who could not survive the rigours of religious life offering advice to those who could. On the other hand, if war is too important to be left to the generals, religion is too important to be left to the clergy. If you believe, as I do, that the success of a society depends upon its ideals as much as on its policy, Australia needs a vigorous and self-confident Christianity. The Church is now thinking about adding spires to St Mary's Cathedral. Keeping St Pat's would have been less expensive and more worthwhile.

Tony Abbott is the Federal Member for Warringah, Sydney, and was a student at St Patrick's in the mid-1980s. His article originally appeared in the 'Sydney Morning Herald' and is reprinted with permission.

Manly wedding for Kidman?

Thursday June 22, 2006
St Patricks Seminary (Picture: Henri Paget)

By Henri Paget

One of the most anticipated celebrity unions of the year might be taking place in my backyard.

Through the rain outside my bedroom window I can see construction has begun on an extravagant white altar in the garden of the famous St Patrick’s Seminary of Manly.

With choppers buzzing overhead and people that look suspiciously like paparazzi perched on a nearby rooftop, I know I’m not alone in my guess that Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban will be getting married here.

St Patrick’s, one of the most beautiful buildings in Sydney, is bordered by a fortress-like stone wall, making it almost impenetrable by paparazzi.

I live on the top floor of one of the only buildings tall enough to peer into where the construction is happening, but even then it’s hard to make out any details.

There isn’t a more ideal location for the marriage of a celebrity couple wanting to keep the ceremony private.

Celebrities reported to be coming to the wedding include Naomi Watts, Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman, as well as director Baz Luhrmann and media mogul Rupert Murdoch.

If the wedding is here they will likely be staying at the high-class Sebel hotel on the southern end of Manly, providing the Hollywood stars with easy access to the beach.

But with the cold and rainy weather we have been having recently, the stars would probably be spending more of their time shopping on the Manly Corso.

I’ll make sure I keep an eye out for them on my daily coffee run.