The Chapel and Cathedral of St. Stephen serve the Catholic community of the Archdiocese of Brisbane. Catholic services are celebrated daily. Other liturgies such as weddings, baptisms and funerals are regularly celebrated there. Ecumenical, interfaith and civil services are also part of the Cathedral ministry.
The first land grant was given to the Catholic community in 1849 and requests for more land were refused by the New South Wales government on the basis that Brisbane would not have enough population to warrant a larger area of land. Over the years the Catholic community bought up adjacent properties to accommodate the growing numbers.
By 1850 the first church was opened with a congregation of 60 families. It was the first permanent church in what is now Queensland. After separation from New South Wales, this little church became the first Cathedral. When Bishop Quinn arrived from Ireland as the first bishop, the township was so small he asked where it was.
When the nave of the present cathedral was completed in 1874 the old church (the Chapel) was used for a variety of purposes from storage, to school, to soup kitchen, to choir room until it was restored in 1998.
The present Cathedral was built in three stages. The nave was finished in 1874 after eleven years. The first Mass was celebrated on 17th May 1874. In 2024 we will celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the Cathedral. In the 1920s Archbishop Duhig built the transepts partially through money bequeathed by Robert Dunn, the previous archbishop. The windows of the transepts reflect the art deco style of the period. This style is seen in the eastern window which Archbishop Duhig commissioned from the Harry Clark studio, Dublin. This window was donated by members of the Mayne family.
In 1988/9 the Cathedral underwent major renovations including building the apse at the eastern end. The interior underwent extensive changes to reflect the needs of Catholic worship and the community after the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). These changes also emphasized the spaciousness of the building and brought in the clear Queensland light. Several significant pieces of art and sculpture by Australian artists were commissioned.
The old St. Stephen’s school was opened in 1892 and over the next 73 years generations of students passed through its doors. Once it closed as a school it was used for various offices. With the major renovations to the precinct in 1988/9, the old school, now called Mercy House, was restored.
All three buildings have undergone renovations since 1988. The Chapel and Cathedral’s renovations were carried out under the guidance of liturgical consultants and architect Robyn Gibson. The renovations respect the 19th century architecture while allowing them to accommodate the needs of the contemporary church and city. The art and architecture reflect the layers of history of the Catholic community of Brisbane.
Frequency of Guided Tours: Guided tours will be available on request.
Is Heritage listed