Friday, July 27, 2012

St Ignatius Catholic Church, Toowong

A recent story in a local paper piqued my interest. "Historical photos of Toowong church discovered in Ireland basement..." trumpeted the headline. A photograph of the Catholic church of St Ignatius at Toowong shortly after its opening in 1930, together with a link to more photographs, followed in the story below the headline. Extremely fortuitous for me, for I had been planning a blog on the very same building, but I was struggling to find any older photographs of the spectacular church.  This is a current picture of it.
(Photo: © 2012 the foto fanatic)

 I fired off a quick email to the Irish Jesuit Archives in Dublin, begging permission to use the images in my story, and received a very prompt reply acceding to my request. My correspondent indicated that the photos had been found in a Jesuit residence in Dublin, and I thank the Jesuits for allowing me to reproduce them here. Here is a link to larger images on the Jesuits' Flickr site. The photos themselves were taken by Sidney Riley Studios, a Brisbane photographic firm, and they give a wonderful impression of the church and of Toowong in the 1930s. How did the photos come to be in Dublin? I don't know, but I assume that a Jesuit father who served in the parish may have taken them back to Ireland with him. Here they are.

(Photos: Copyright of the Irish Jesuit Archives) 

Don't you love the view across the Toowong rooftops towards the church - all of those lovely Queenslanders on display? And what about the picture of the school children and the lone Jesuit father lined up on the stairs to the church? 

The photograph of the interior of the church shows the ornate scagliola sanctuary and pulpit. Scagliola is a product made by combining gypsum plaster with glues and dyes, and can be made to look like a stone finish. In this case the result is a type of faux marble. This may well be the only scagliola work in Queensland.

The story of the church itself is one we have seen before. Archbishop Duhig recognised that the existing church and school, run by the Jesuits since 1916, were inadequate for the growing population of Toowong, and in 1928 or thereabouts he engaged his then favourite architect Jack Hennessy to draw some plans for a new church. It was decided to save money by including a separate floor beneath the church to be used as a school.

The foundation stone was laid on 16 June 1929. At the ceremony, Archbishop Duhig remarked that "the day of wooden churches are past", an indicator of his intention to build substantial churches in prime positions around Queensland. This church was built by Concrete Constructions Pty Ltd for £16,000, and was dedicated by Duhig on 18 May 1930.

The Church of St Ignatius is listed on the Queensland Heritage Register. Who was St Ignatius? You can find out here.

Click here for a Google Map.



  1. i like all those original Queenslanders in the photo below the church too. Though my husband thinks the same view today would mainly feature unit blocks.

    1. Kristen is spot on! I went to the spot where I believe the original photo was taken, and the church is virtually out of view

  2. Great photographs. Do you know if the jesuit archives have any of the school that was built after the war in July 1948? Who could I contact to find out?


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