Australia For Visitors > Sydney > Latin Language Inscriptions in Sydney, Australia

Latin Language Inscriptions in Sydney

Share this page:

The British colony of New South Wales was founded in 1788. In those days the Latin language was still widely used in the sciences, in law, in medicine and in inscriptions on building foundation stones, on memorial tablets, and on graves and tombstones.

In Sydney, the capital city of New South Wales, the following inscriptions in the Latin language -- testimonies to the hard work and achievement of past generations -- can still be viewed at just a short distance from the Central Business DIstrict.

(1) Sydney Grammar School, College Street, Darlinghurst

Latin inscription, Sydney Grammar School, College St., Darlinghurst (image)

Latin Inscription at Sydney Grammar School
which can be seen from College Street and from Hyde Park


Above a door on the western side of the school, there is a stone tablet with the following Latin inscription:

AUSP. THO. BRISBANE EQUIT.
COLLEGIUM SYDNEIENSE
PRO LIT. ET ART. LIB. STUDIIS
CIVIUM AUSTRALICORUM CURA
INSTUTUTUM.
FRA. FORBES CAPIT JUSTIC. COLL. PRAES.
RIC. BOURKE TERRIT. GUBERN.
MDCCCXXXII.
E. Hallen. Arch. R. Cooper. Aedif.


This inscription may be translated as follows:

Under the patronage of Sir Thomas Brisbane
Sydney College was founded
with Chief Justice Francis Forbes as its president
for the furtherance of the study of letters and the liberal arts,
through the concern of the citizens of Australia
in the year 1832
when Richard Bourke was the Governor of the territory.
E. Hallen, Architect. - R. Cooper, Builder.
[1]

Some of the Latin words in the inscription have been abbreviated for reasons of space (for example, GUBERN. is short for GUBERNATOR (English, "governor").

Interestingly, the Latin inscription includes a spelling mistake: the word INSTUTUTUM should be INSTITUTUM. Clifford Turney writes: "Whether the stonemason, architect or some other person was responsible for the mispelling... has been a matter of conjecture." [2]

The Sydney Grammar School opened its doors in 1854 and is still a major Sydney school to this day.

This school is actually a successor to earlier educational institutions that stood on the same site in College Street. The first school was the Sydney Public Free Grammar School (founded 1825) and it was followed by Sydney College (opened 1835). The Sydney College buildings were designed by the architect Edward Hallen and were built by the building contractor Robert Cooper with construction beginning in 1831. [3]

The stone tablet with its Latin inscription was placed above a doorway in the western façade of these buildings in 1832. "Hallet's original design included a long western facade with a central entrance with a handsome portico with columns. Unfortunately the portico was never constructed." [1] Above the doorway, now walled-in, a stone tablet with a Latin inscription was placed and this stone tablet is the one we can still see today.

This inscription has attracted notice over the years including from W. Cobbett who wrote a letter to the Sydney Morning Herald on 13 June 1950:

School Tablet

Sir,

During the term of an early N.S.W. Governor a tablet was erected on the building in College Street occupied by the Sydney Grammar School.

After all these years the sandstone is fretting, but the wording is in Latin. Could any of your readers, many of whom pass the place on the way to the Museum, give the English version of the inscription?

W. COBBETT.
Sydney.


An answer duly appeared in the Herald's Letters pages on 20 June 1950:

School Inscription

Sir,

I have pleasure in supplying the following translation of the Latin inscription on the College Street wall of the Sydney Grammar School, as asked for by your correspondent, W. Cobbett ("Herald," June 13):

"UNDER THE AUSPICES OF THOMAS BRISBANE, KNIGHT, SYDNEY COLLEGE WAS ESTABLISHED BY THE SOLICITUDE OF AUSTRALIAN CITIZENS FOR THE STUDY OF LITERATURE AND THE LIBERAL ARTS. FRANCIS FORBES, CHIEF JUSTICE, PRESIDENT OF THE COLLEGE.. RICHARD BOURKE, GOVERNOR OF THE TERRITORY 1832.

E. H. ALLEN [sic], ARCHITECT. R. COOPER, BUILDER."

F. G. PHILLIPS.
Sydney Grammar School.



(2) Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Missenden Road, Camperdown

Royal Prince Alfred Hospital foundation stone with Latin inscription (image)

The Latin inscription on the foundation stone to the right
of the main entrance door of the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital's original building.


The foundation stone of the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital was set in place in 1876. It may still be seen on the right hand side of the main entrance of the original Royal Prince Alfred Hospital building between the Prince Albert Pavillion and the Queen Victoria Pavillion.

Its Latin words, written by Professor Charles Badham (1813–1884), [4] are as follows:

DEO OPT. MAX.
QVI ALFREDVM DVCEM EDINENSEM
IN IPSEM FERIIS ET GRATULATIONIBVS
QVIBVS EVM CIVITAS SYDN. EXCIPIEBAT
AB HOMINE FANATICO GRAVITER VOLNERATVM
REGINAE MATRI BRITANNISQVE OMNIBVS
SERVAVIT
COLONIA NOV. CAMB. AVST.
TANTI FACINORIS DOLORE ET OPPROBRIO
LIBERATA HOC AEGROTORUM PERFVCIVM
MEDICINAEQVE DOMICILIVM POSVIT
A. S. H. MDCCCLXXVI
V. ILL. HERC. G. R. ROBINSON SS.M. ET G.EQ.PR. COL. PRAEFECTO


Professor Frederick Augustus Todd (1880–1944) has translated [5] this inscription into English, as follows:

In gratitude to God most great and most high
who, when Alfred Duke of Edinburgh
had been seriously wounded by a fanatic
during the very holidays and rejoicing
during which the city of Sydney was welcolming him,
saved him for the Queen his mother and all the Britons.
The colony of New South Wales,
freed from the pain and disgrace of so great a crime,
founded this refuge of the sick
and home of healing
in the year of our salvation 1876,
while his Excellency Sir Hercules G. R. Robinson, G.C.M., was Governor of the Colony.


Some of the Latin words have been abbreviated for reasons of space (for example, DEO OPT. MAX. is short for DEO OPTIMO MAXIMO (English, "to God most great and most high").

The inscription states, in effect, that the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital was erected as a thanksgiving to God by the people of New South Wales for the recovery of His Royal Highness Prince Alfred (then known as the Duke of Edinburgh) from the attack made on his life at Clontarf in 1868. [6]


Attempted assassination of Prince Alfred, Clontarf NSW, 1868 (image)

A contemporary engraving of the "Attempted Assassination of H.R.H. the Duke of Edinburgh at Clontarf, N.S.W."

Source: National Library of Australia.



There is also a second tablet, made of marble, on the opposite side of the main entrance of the RPA Hospital's main entrance door. It is inscribed as follows:

And now abideth Faith, Hope, and Charity, these three,
but the greatest of these is Charity. [7]


(3) St. John's Church, Darlinghurst Road, Darlinghurst

St John's School, Darlinghurst - Latin inscription (image)

Latin inscription on stone tablet opposite St. John's Church, Darlinghurst


Following the completion of a new church school building in the 1960s, a memorial stone tablet was fixed on a wall a few metres to the south of St John's Church. The stone was inscribed (with gilt lettering) with the Latin sentence:

FINIS CORONAT OPUS


This may be translated as: The end crowns the work.


Footnotes

1. Clifford Turney, Grammar: A History of Sydney Grammar School, 1819-1988. Sydney, Sydney Grammar School in association with Allen & Unwin, 1988, p. 14.

2. ibid., p. 426, footnote 82.

3. ibid., p. 13.

4. Royal Prince Alfred Hospital: 125 Year Anniversary. Sydney, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, 2007. p. 19.

5. ibid., p. 19.

6. R. P. A. [journal], September 1938, p. 42.

7. ibid., p. 42.


Share this page:









About UsContact UsPrivacyTerms of Use


© 2005-17 Australia For Visitors. All Rights Reserved.