The Mother Ignatius McQuoin Memorial Chapel
The Chapel was blessed and opened in 1915 by the Archbishop of Sydney, Most Reverend Dr Kelly. It was built in memory of Mother Ignatius (Elizabeth) McQuoin, who established the Sisters of Mercy in Sydney, November 15, 1865, and designed by Joseph Sheerin of Sheerin & Hennessy who designed other Catholic Institutions, among them being St Joseph’s College Hunters Hill. It is in the gothic style and is an excellent example of ecclesiastical architecture of the time, cruciform in shape with a centre choir 100 feet long and transepts forming the arms of the cross.
The great sanctuary is of white Carrara marble and was made by Pellegrini & Co in Genoa Italy. The magnificent altar, a solid block of marble featuring Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper, was a gift from Mr & Mrs Maurice O’Regan, parent of Mother Beatrice, Mistress of Novices, Mother Malachy, for many years a local Superior and Mother Wilfred, Superior General for 12 years. The O’Regan family also purchased and donated the O’Regan Building in 1917. Many of the stained glass windows were in the original Chapel built in 1883, and were transferred to the new Chapel in 1915.
Intricately carved stalls lined the walls of the main Chapel, leaving the centre free to accommodate processions which were part of the ceremony for Reception and Profession in the Mother House.
When the original property Masalou was purchased, the owner, the Hon Francis Lord MLA, refused to sell to the Catholic Church. However, the Sisters called on a great friend from the Rocks, Mr George Whiting who acted on their behalf. Respecting Mr Whiting’s wish to remain anonymous the new stained glass windows were made of Australian glass and include in small blue glass circles, the design of a fish – a whiting commemorating their friend and benefactor.
The organ dates back to 1830 and was recently restored with funds raised by the Alumni Association.
Every Year group in the College has an opportunity to assemble in the Chapel for Morning Prayer during the School Cycle – once per fortnight. The Chapel is very popular at weekends for weddings of Alumni and others wishing to be married in such a beautiful setting. Being the Chapel of the Sisters of Mercy North Sydney, the Sisters still use it for many of their Feasts and celebrations.
Masalou was the Convent occupied by the Sisters of Mercy North Sydney for over 100 years. The original property was the home of the Hon Francis Lord MLA and was named after his daughters – Mary, Sarah and Louisa. It was a large house set in extensive grounds.
The Sisters had been living at St Patrick’s Church Hill (The Rocks) and Mother Ignatius (Elizabeth) McQuoin was aware and alert to their needs as they began to show signs of strain and stress. She began searching for a place where the Sisters could enjoy fresh country air away from the dust and noise of the city. The North Shore was her choice, first a cottage in West Street, and then three years later, she found Masalou. However, Mr Lord, the owner of the property, was not willing to sell to anyone associated with the Catholic Church.
While living at St Patrick’s in the Rocks, Mother Ignatius had befriended a Mr George Whiting who had a shop in Hunter Street Sydney. He was to become the greatest friend and benefactor to Mother Ignatius and the Sisters. Mr Whiting agreed to act on the Sisters’ behalf and purchase Masalou in his own name from the unsuspecting Francis Lord. In 1878 he acquired Masalou for ₤7000 and on the same day he sold it at the same price to the Sisters.
The name was changed to ‘Monte Sant’ Angelo’ (Mount of the Holy Angel in Italian) and is taken from Monte Sant’ Angelo, Gargano, an Italian Centre of religion, culture and learning. It also celebrated the day in 1873 when the Sisters arrived on the North Shore – 2 October, the Feast of the Holy Angels. The school was dedicated to the Holy Angels and the Convent for a long time was placed under the patronage and care of St Joseph. Hence, the statue of St Joseph in the centre of the circular drive faces what was the Convent, namely Masalou.
After alterations to provide classrooms and sleeping accommodation for the boarders the school moved from West Street to Miller Street where is soon became well-known and flourished.
An advertisement from The Freeman’s Journal, 8 March 1879 reads:
“The aspect of the new Convent Monte Sant Angelo cannot be surpassed for beauty of scenery, extent to grounds and healthiness of situation … it being established for the special object of imparting the highest class of education for young ladies.”
Currently, Masalou is used to house the Sisters of Mercy and College Archives, and academic services. At the rear of the building a secluded courtyard framed by the convent cloister provides an oasis for staff members during the breaks.
Mercy Hall and the Library
In June 1905 Cardinal Moran blessed the foundation stone of Monte’s first building since 1887. Designed by Mr Joseph I Sherrin and completed in 1906 at a cost of ₤5,250 it was a large two storey building, consisting of a hall, a boarders’ dining room and art studio on the ground floor and on the first floor above the hall was the dormitory for the boarders. There were bathrooms with marble topped basins and according to the Freeman’s Journal “the most modern dressing room for a boarding school that could be desired as each lady has a wardrobe to herself.” A long balcony with an ornate cast iron balustrade ran along the southern side of the building – a great vantage point for Harbour views!
All was built in an ornate style – “a free rendering of Classic with a strong Doric feeling” a chronicler of the day described it, with gables surmounted by crosses, niches for statues – all of a “very handsome design.” The interior was in keeping. There were marble steps, marble floors on the porches and a beautiful staircase. No expense was spared. The hall was furnished with desks imported from America and throughout the best materials were used.
In 1960, when the Boarders moved to their new home in Stormnston, McLaren Street, the large dormitory over the College Hall, affectionately known to generations of boarders as the ‘Big Dorm’, became the library. A new entry staircase was added in the mid 1980s and the mezzanine refurbishment took place in the early 1990s. In 1962, an Award for Excellence in Construction in the category, ‘Refurbishment to a Heritage Building under $2.5 million’ was presented by the Master Builder’s Association.
The Library has now evolved into a dynamic teaching and learning space in which the print collection is complemented by an extensive suite of scholarly digital research resourses available to students 24/7 through Monte Connect.
In 1906 the whole school was housed in the hall, infants departments on the stage, primary in the body of the hall and the students preparing for examinations near the main entrance. Today the ground floor is used for meetings, sporting activities and drama productions.