Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.

22.10.10

Out of the ashes.

It took more than two and a half years to rebuild. Inside, one of Australia's best pipe organs sits in the north transept. One of the first things the fire brigade had done on entering was to throw a tarpaulin about the size of a tennis court over the organ to lessen water damage. Then they put the fire out before the whole place went up. Nice work.

Major rebuilding took place in the roof and ceiling. Most of the furnishings - pews, carpet etc - had to be replaced due to water damage. Although the interior is now almost complete, scaffolding fills the apse - the 'east wall' - which in this case really is at the east end of the building. Fabric has been draped over the scaffolding to partially obscure it during services, so that the altar has the appearance of a movie set designed to look like a church. The centre aisle is patterned marble where before there was red carpet. It's a little over the top in design, shines like a mirror and is very echoey. Drop the crystal on the way up to the offertory and you might as well fire off a gun. Before the fire, a large timber octagonal 'chandelier' bearing candle-like lamps hung over the altar like a giant cartwheel suspended horizontally on chains from the vast ceiling. This was burnt, of course, and has been replaced by a chandelier of massed globes that looks like something out of the Mirabella Imports window in Lygon Street. I preferred the timber affair. It was completely out of place, of course, an add-on dating from the 1960s, but it always reminded me of the wooden contraption the beast rode down on from the ceiling in the 1978 Czech version of The Beauty and the Beast (Panna a Netvor), a film I first saw in the Palais Theatre at the 1979 Melbourne Film Festival, and have never forgotten. Perhaps because the scene was accompanied by haunting organ music. The things you think about during readings.

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There was water and fire again last Sunday at the newly-opened St Paul's. Alexandra was baptised over the brand new marble font. The old font, at which William and Thomas were baptised, was traditional pale grey, but the new one is the colour of warm ochre, like a desert sunset. The water fell over her dark hair and later, William carefully held the candle as the priest lit it with a taper from the Paschal candle. Thomas blew it straight out again.