The original chapel was built in 1839 and was the first permanent building constructed expressly as a church in the Port Phillip Settlement. The church was founded by Congregationalists (also known as Independents). The chapel served the townsfolk and the farming community in the vicinity.
Three of the early merchants guaranteed the salary for the first minister who arrived in Melbourne in 1838.
The first chapel was demolished in 1866 to make way for the more grandiose church building that you see today.
The church was designed by Joseph Reed who also designed The Melbourne Town Hall and The Exhibition Building. The church is classified by the National Trust with the highest heritage rating.
The design of the church reflects Joseph Reed, the architect's admiration for the Lombardic style - the polychrome brickwork exterior, open cloisters on the side of the building and Romanesque arches.
The interior of the church was strongly influenced by the Minister of the day, Reverend Henderson's request for a setting in which all members of the congregation could both hear and see the preacher. The result is an interior very reminiscent of a theatre:
- A sloping floor with tiered seating;
- A gallery to increase the capacity of the church;
- A coved ceiling to improve the acoustics;
- A semi-circular shape.
Many of the materials used in the construction of the church walls are materials normally used for houses, shops and factories, rather than major churches. This includes multi-coloured bricks from Hawthorn and cast iron for the pillars and gallery.
The St Michael's History E-Book is also available for purchase on our website.