249 Elizabeth Street, Brisbane City
Saturday : 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM
General access (Access restricted during liturgical celebrations)

Old St Stephen’s Roman Catholic Church, now St Stephen’s Chapel, was built in 1850 on land dedicated for the Church in 1848. Additional land was purchased and in 1859 the Archdiocese of Brisbane was created and the first Bishop, James Quinn, was appointed. Plans for a large cathedral designed by Benjamin Backhouse were immediately put in place. One-third of the total foundation area was laid in 1864 and in 1865 Bishop Quinn laid the foundation stone.

The 1856-59 economic crisis required moving to a smaller, simpler concept, designed by architect Richard Suter. In 1870 work recommenced on the revised plans, using the existing foundations and the main structure was completed in 1874. The top of the cathedral’s west gable was completed in 1884 and two sandstone spires were added.

Architects Hennessy, Hennessy and Hall were engaged in the early 1920s to add transepts and a sanctuary. By 1977 erosion required the removal of the spires which were replaced with glass-reinforced concrete in the 1980s as part of the restoration and extension commissioned by Archbishop Francis Rush. Acclaimed architect Robin Gibson undertook the task, which included the addition of three new chapels to the eastern frontage and setting the relief panel from the 1887 altar (the Emmaus encounter with the risen Christ, Luke 24: 13-35) into a wall.

The restored Cathedral was re-dedicated on 3 December 1989. Archbishop Francis Roberts Rush has been honoured in the construction of the Francis Rush Centre. Completed, blessed and opened in 2005, the modern four-level centre comprises spaces for liturgical celebrations, hospitality areas, offices, meeting rooms and parking.

Visit the St. Mary MacKillop display window and walk which leads to the chapel and the John Elliott sculpture of the saint.  The window and walk celebrates major events of St. Mary’s life.

The display in the Francis Rush Centre marking momentous changes with images and artefacts.

This year the Cathedral of St Stephen celebrates several milestones:

1869       150 years ago St. Mary MacKillop arrives in Brisbane in December
1989       Cathedral of St Stephen and the precinct renovated
Thirty years ago, the Cathedral and precinct underwent major renovations.  Walls were torn down to be replaced by open space and the Cathedral saw bobcats taking the place of pews.  The whole interior was renewed.
Robyn Gibson was the architect who brought to life the commission given him by Archbishop Rush
1999       First church, now called St. Stephen’s Chapel renovated
Twenty years ago, under the impetus given by Archbishop John Bathersby, the original St Stephen’s church was restored and renovated.  This historic building, opened in 1850 had deteriorated due to the soft sandstone used.
Once again Robyn Gibson was the architect chosen to restore and renovate this A.W.N. Pugin designed church.

Come and visit:
The Cathedral of St Stephen
St Stephen’s Chapel
The St. Mary MacKillop display window and walk

Tour Information

Dress Requirements

Smart casual

Wheelchair access

Yes

Is Heritage listed

Yes

Cathedral: RG Suter // Renovation: Robin Gibson and Partners // Francis Rush Centre: Conrad Gargett
1863-1874 (first stage of Cathedral)