Repair work on St Mary’s Catholic Cathedral, Hobart, in 2008 brought to light the possibility that a baptismal font in the Cathedral may be from the medieval Norman period. The cylindrical font has elaborately carved columns and Romanesque arches. The Romanesque style was popular in Normandy and was introduced to England following the Norman conquest in 1066. It is thought that the font was brought to Hobart from England by Tasmania’s first Catholic bishop, Robert William Willson (1794-1866) in 1844. When the antiquity of the font was first discovered, the Cathedral administrator told ABC News in 2008 that it may date
back to the ninth century, but as Normandy was not formally established until 911 this is unlikely. More recently it has been suggested that the font comes
from the Norman period in England and is dated c. 1066-1200. Research into the font is continuing.
The baptismal font is a rare example of the Australian
public’s practical use of, and interaction with, an actual medieval item for many generations.
For the original dating see http://www.cathnews.com/article.aspx?aeid=7424.
For the revised dating see http://hobart.catholic.org.au/history/st-marys-cathedral