Parishes, schools and agencies

Lord Mayor hails restored Cross, renewed space at St Peter's Eastern Hill


By Mark Brolly

December 19 2019One of Melbourne’s first memorials to World War I was rededicated and a new plaza linking it and one of the city’s oldest churches was opened on the eve of Remembrance Day.

Lord Mayor Sally Capp, French Ambassador to Australia Christophe Penot and former Governor-General Bishop Peter Hollingworth led the ceremony at St Peter’s Eastern Hill on 10 November marking the rededication of the 95-year-old Wayside Cross, a unique replica in Australia of wayside crosses found on the Somme, and the opening of St Peter’s Place, providing enhanced access to the Cross and the church.

The newly restored cross as St Peter's Eastern Hill. Photo by Sanjeev Singh.

The new open space also provides a base for Heaven-at-the-hill, a coffee and food caravan not-for-profit social enterprise supporting the work of the St Peter's Eastern Hill Melbourne Charitable Foundation.  The Foundation in its turn supports the Lazarus Centre breakfast program at St Peter’s, run under the auspices of Anglicare Victoria, which operates seven days a week for the homeless and other very poor of the CBD.

St Peter’s Vicar, the Revd Dr Hugh Kempster, and the Chair of the Foundation, Mrs Krystyna Campbell-Pretty, hosted the ceremony, held immediately after Parish High Mass. Ms Campbell-Pretty said of the restored Cross: “The young soldiers who were living on the edge in appalling conditions in the trenches saw these expressions of spirituality all around them and they found solace. So the first time that this memorial was conceived was very, very soon after the Armistice, it was late 1918, and the parishioners of St Peter’s said: ‘We have to create a memorial.’ It was thought that nothing could be more fitting than the Wayside Crosses as they’d seen in the Somme area.”

Ms Capp, who became emotional when speaking of the 75 per cent of Australian casualties that occurred on the Western Front, said the Wayside Cross had been built in 1924 to commemorate parishioners who had gone to World War I but had developed into a broader, community-wide symbol of remembrance and also of care.

“Well, our Wayside Cross is a wonderful symbol of remembrance and respect but it is also a beacon of care and kindness,” she said. “And it’s about the type of community that our Diggers fought so hard to protect. For all of those reasons, this is such a special place.”

Ambassador Penot laid a wreath at the Cross and recited The Ode from the poem For the Fallen, by Englishman Laurence Binyon, before Dr Hollingworth blessed and dedicated the restored Wayside Cross.

Dr Hollingworth remarked that restored Cross and renewed space brought together the ancient and the modern, the sacred and the secular and the church and civil society – drawing together so many important parts of society, “which have sometimes gone in their different directions”.

“The space is beautifully done, the notion of a circle embracing unity and above all the Wayside Cross, the crucifix, which stands out so much more clearly and so much more commandingly than it did before. This is the ultimate statement of our sacrifice, service above self,” he said.