Art & Design


The Magnificent Mission to Seafarers

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Down the southern end of Flinders Street, past the Bunjil sculpture and across the way from the gleaming skyscrapers of the Docklands lies the Mission to Seafarers, one of Melbourne’s most compelling buildings.

With its distinctive domes the Mission, built in 1917, is considered one of the best examples of Spanish Mission Revival in Melbourne. Established as a safe place for seafarers to rest, relax and enjoy some local hospitality, the Mission still makes daily pick-ups at the port, giving salty sea dogs from around the globe a place to hang their hat.

But you don’t have to be a sailor to enjoy the Mission’s many charms. There’s a nautical-themed chapel complete with sailors in stained glassed windows and a pulpit shaped like a ship’s stern. Then there’s the stunning Norla Dome, a former gymnasium (you can still see the hooks in the ceiling where weights were hung) that now operates as a gallery – they recently had a show by Peter Russell Clarke here. The dome was originally painted in a nod to the cathedrals of Europe, but superstitious sailors were spooked off by images of demons and the painting was removed. Sadly no photos exist of the work and it’s consigned to Melbourne’s invisible history.

Finally, the Mission wouldn’t be a place from R&R without a bar. Constructed in the 1960s from old corks, bottles and glass the bar is a work of art in itself, and still has 1960s prices.

While it’s open every day of the year, you can stop by the Mission to Seafarers on Melbourne Open Day this weekend and experience one of Melbourne’s most interesting, and often overlooked, marvels.

Mission to Seafarers
717 Flinders St, Docklands


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