Chaos, mystery and St John’s 180th gig

ST JOHN’S Anglican Church in Fremantle is gearing up to mark a momentous occasion: its 180th anniversary. 

As the historic milestone approaches on August 4, the church is not only preparing for a special celebration but also opening its doors to visitors through guided tours, led by enthusiastic parishioner Christian Mauri, who has taken it upon himself to showcase the grandeur and significance of the church each Thursday from 1-4pm.

Mr Mauri, who attends the sung mass every Sunday with hi s partner Kaylene, believes the celebration is an ideal occasion to open the church’s doors and give people a chance to experience its beauty and spirituality.

“If you live in Fremantle, and you haven’t been inside St John’s, and you haven’t heard the sung mass, it doesn’t matter what your beliefs are, treat yourself to one of the finest moments that our city has to offer,” he said.

“It’s proper high church in our seaside city.”

Mr Mauri’s journey as a tour guide began when he volunteered to be a “greeter” or “welcomer” at the church. 

As he started to delve into St John’s history and intricacies, he found himself irresistibly drawn into its stories. 

“I started to soak it up, and go home and Google and go down rabbit holes, and started to realise just how much is going on at St John’s, and excitedly sharing it with people when they come to visit.”

One of the first things that struck him were the beautiful stained glass windows, which he discovered contained secret texts that can only be seen when the sun hits at the right angle.

There’s also the mystery window which disappeared when the first, modest, St John’s was demolished next door, and replaced by the current church in 1843.

“If you go into to St John’s, there’s two windows which are deep red – the deepest, reddest windows in the place,” Mr Mauri said.

“There’s a third window that’s missing. 

“Nobody knows what happened to the third window; getting rid of the old church and going to the new church it mysteriously went missing. 

“Apparently it was the one with Jesus on it, so if anybody’s great grandparents or grandparents have in their shed a mysterious, dust-covered red window with Jesus on it, put up your hand and return it to St John’s.

• Christian Mauri says St John’s stained glass windows can be like a grand text, if you know what to look for. Photo by Steve Grant

The church’s “Pioneer Window” will also appeal to Game of Thrones fans.

“Look for the windows with the red and white roses on it, and it tells you a story of families moving from York, down from the south of England across the sea on the Challenger, arriving in Fremantle and founding Beaconsfield.”

Those families and their famous flowers speak of the War of the Roses, which the television series popularised.

Game of Thrones

Other highlights of Mr Mauri’s tour include a “chaos pendulum” and a special place that’s allowed the parish to literally become part of the church’s foundation.

The pendulum is a cross with a large arc between its horizontal arms where water is poured, and as it starts to swing, the viewer is invited to predict where and how far the liquid will flow.

“It’s very chaotic.” 

 “It’s a tool for meditating on how unpredictable nature is and what a chaotic world we are in, which is very different to the kind of divine watchmaker which is often associated with Christianity.

“On the other side of the church, just where the Eucharist is kept there is a book behind a pane of glass. 

“In this book is written the names of husbands and wives and parents and children who have passed away. 

“Rather than giving their ashes to an urn on a fireplace, or distributing them at the seaside at Dwellingup, they have chosen to give them to St John’s to be stored in the foundations. 

“So there’s a little secret door that you can lift up and beneath it, mixed with the earth, is the ashes of the parishioners.

“So the parish is literally a part of the foundations of St John’s, and so long as St John’s stands strong and undisturbed, their ashes will lie in peace.


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