St Francis Xavier’s Catholic Cathedral

1856 to 1858

St Francis Xavier’s is Adelaide’s Catholic Cathedral. It is modelled architecturally upon Baylard Abbey Church in Yorkshire England.  The southern section was begun in 1856. The design was modified by Pugin & Pugin (England), architects.  The Cathedral complements the Treasury building opposite, the Law Courts and Police Station all of which are of the Victorian era.

At the time of its construction, as Adelaide was earning for itself the title of “The City of Churches,” newspapers and the public generally paid a great deal of attention to the architectural style of its houses of worship. On 26 April 1857, for instance, the Mercury and Sporting Chronicle printed the following article beneath a sketch of the plans of St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral in Wakefield Street:

“The elegant structure now in course of erection in Victoria Square will certainly far eclipse all other Ecclesiastical edifices here, none of which compare in point of beauty. The full dimensions will be 184 feet in length, 86 feet 6 inches in width and extreme height of the tower 200 feet. As an architectural work it is eminently calculated to stamp Mr Lambeth as the Pugin of South Australia, while its magnitude of dimensions bears most unequivocal testimony to the zeal of our Roman Catholic brethren who, although limited in point of numbers and boasting but few wealthy members in their communion, could venture upon the erection of so noble an edifice. Whatever opinions may be entertained of their peculiar tenets, it is an indisputable fact that throughout the Australian colonies, they exhibit a greater amount of practical attachment both to doctrines and interests of their Church than all the Protestant sects put together, and we desire no better illustration of the beauties of voluntaryism than a comparison of this magnificent temple with the gamboge-colored dog-kennel in which Mr Stow does the pastoral.”

The designer Richard Lambeth mentioned in the article did not continue with the cathedral, and the first southern section was built under the architect Charles Hansom between 1856-58.  The dedication of the Cathedral took place on 13 June 1858.

The eastern aisle was rebuilt in 1889 under the supervision of E. J. Woods, architect. The building reached its present form between 1922 and 1926 under W. H. Bagot, architect; this work included the northern part of the nave and the building of the tower.

Current status and listings

ACH Status:
Heritage Protection:
NTSA Listed, State Heritage Listed
State Heritage ID:

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