A year-long restoration project on which more than 150 people were involved has been shortlisted in the National Trust Heritage Awards.
Goulburn's Sts Peter and Paul's Cathedral is in the running for two categories - Conservation (built heritage) and Conservation (interiors and objects). The former recognises the overall $9.2 million restoration completed by Project Strategies while the latter is a nod to the 14 Stations of the Cross, rejuvenated by International Conservation Services.
"It's wonderful news," Mary Queen of Apostles parish priest, Father Joshy Kurien said.
"It was such a significant restoration - the biggest on the Cathedral yet - and was finished in less than a year. The shortlisting is testament to all the feedback we receive from people who visit the Cathedral. People are really enjoying what has been done."
The awards are an annual celebration of "outstanding practice, awarding excellence in conservation of Aboriginal, built, natural or cultural heritage."
Project Strategies director, Stuart Cunningham, said he was "excited and very proud" the Cathedral had made the shortlist. The company nominated the work which opened to the community last November.
"We spent a lot of of time on structural work and underpinning. Much of what we did was not the sexy stuff but was aimed at stabilising (the foundation), fixing damp, access and compliance issues," he said.
"Much of what we did could not be seen...But it will be appreciated for generations to come."
The work also included extensive sandstone re-pointing, creation of a new crypt access, new slate roof and timber fleche, internal painting and replacement of unique stencilling above the altar, extension of the altar, choir loft repair, organ restoration, a new baptismal area, refurbished sacristy, construction of a narthex and more.
Mr Cunningham said coordinating 150 workers amid COVID and wet weather was challenge in itself.
But he was buoyed by the public feedback.
"It's been great," he said.
"Certain jobs only come along once in a while and the Cathedral is iconic in Goulburn. It was a beautiful looking church to begin with but now it's shiny and new. It's a treasure to have as part of our portfolio."
The company will attend the awards dinner along with parish representatives. They will be up against 10 other projects, including the Bondi pavilion restoration.
"Conservation - Built Heritage is the most competitive category of the 2023 National Trust Heritage Awards," a National Trust spokesperson said.
"This category includes a very high standard of entries - all of which are to be commended. The submissions have prompted lively discussion between judges, much deliberating and debate."
Stations of the Cross in the running
International Conservation Services representatives will also attend the night.
The company restored the 14 Stations of the Cross as part of the wider Cathedral project. Former Goulburn man and head conservator, Adam Godijn and senior conservator, Alice Jitarescu, were initially commissioned to clean the oak-framed plaster art works.
"All of that changed when we found this amazing detail," he said.
Ms Jitarescu's "lovely discovery" of "well concealed" paint under the plaster sparked her curiosity. Extensive micro-testing, x-rays and research were employed in a quest to restore the Stations to their original form. Parishioners sponsored the $15,000 cost of each one, given it was unbudgeted.
Paint colours were meticulously matched as part of what Ms Jitarescu described as a complicated treatment.
Over one year, the team cleaned, re-painted and polished the frames of each Station.
Along the way, they discovered "very well crafted" works, a Frenchman's signature and an 1890 date on the rear of one.
"We suspect that date could relate to the oak frames and that the Stations could be earlier," Mr Godijn said.
"...We've opened more questions than answers. Over time, I'm sure they will be answered."
The Stations returned to the Cathedral in all their glory last November, just in time for the re-opening. They were 'christened' on Good Friday.
Ms Jitarescu has been invited to the ICOM-CC conference in Valencia, Spain, to deliver a presentation on the project. The conference is a major cultural event, uniting international museums.
Mr Godijn, a former Saint Patrick's College student, said he enjoyed reconnecting with the parish.
"What's so rewarding is being involved with the parish and community, sharing the (restoration) journey and seeing everyone's enthusiasm," he said.
Ms Jitarescu, who works primarily on ecclesiastical items, says the Stations have a value of prayer and a soul.
"It's one of the most rewarding projects I've worked on," she said.
The work is up against four others in the awards.
"The sheer quality and volume of entries submitted this year demonstrates the passion of heritage enthusiasts from all across the state - Goulburn certainly included, National Trust CEO, Debbie Mills said.
The winners will be announced at the awards ceremony on Friday, May 12 at Doltone House in Pyrmont.
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