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Published May 20th 2016
Freedom to worship and spoilt for choice
Adelaide has always been referred to as the "City of Churches" and when you explore the city and suburbs you can understand why with both the beautiful and diverse structures that embrace a wide range of beliefs and religions. Since our beginnings when South Australia was seen as a place of religious haven away from persecution in Europe, many faiths, both mainstream and "free" churches established themselves amongst our communities.
In my exploration around Adelaide I discovered 8 churches and cathedrals which both are architecturally pleasing to the eye and have an important historical significance in South Australia's development.
As the State's oldest church, Holy Trinity stands in the shadow of the Morphett Street Bridge and modern development including the expansion of the nearby Convention Centre. Established in 1838 and the first Anglican church in South Australia, it is today an evangelical Christian church known as Trinity City, part of the Planter's group of churches, the planter expression referring to the "springing up" of similar churches around Adelaide.
The featured clock was once the main town timepiece, long before the GPO and Adelaide Town Hall in King William Street were built. The main church building is open for viewing from Monday to Friday between 10 am and 2 pm or by special arrangement outside of these hours.
The imposing twin spires of St Peter's Cathedral in North Adelaide are a strong feature of Adelaide's landscape and offers traditional architecture in line with the style of Anglican churches/cathedrals elsewhere in Australia and around the world. Back in the 1840's it was proposed that St Peter's be built in the centre of Adelaide in Victoria Square, however the Supreme Court deemed although there was space for public use, the grant was invalid and land was obtained subsequently at its current site.
St Peter's is well worth the time to explore its impressive interior with both self-guided and guided tours available. Self guided tours are available from Monday to Saturday 9.30 am - 4 pm and on Sundays either between services or from 12 Midday to 4 pm.
Referred to as the "Light on the Hill" Brougham Place Uniting Church originally started out as a Congregational church designed for free thinkers and very much community based. It's very first minister, Reverend James Jefferis established the North Adelaide Young Men's Society, which enabled skills to be taught in writing and public speaking. Some of those men went onto represent South Australia in Parliament and Jefferis also transferred a large sum, which he had been offered to set up a denominational college, to form a nucleus fund for establishment of the University of Adelaide.
Today the Uniting Church can be visited by arrangement and you will be impressed by the 8 beautiful stain-glass windows dated between 1891 and 1961.
Listed as the second oldest Catholic Church established in South Australia (the first is at Morphett Vale), St Marys Catholic Church in Lower North Adelaide in Stanley Street was first established in the 1870's with links to our first Australian saint, Mary Mackillop and it is believed she visited the church on several occasions, having established a school adjacent to the church. An influx of Irish immigrants, including Irish Dominican priests saw the church flourish and there is reference at the site, to the surrounding area being known as "Irish Town" during this period.
From the 1870's until the 1970's the site operated as both a church and a school.
Approaching St Laurence's Church on Buxton Street in North Adelaide, you can't help but be impressed with its imposing architecture, constructed of local Tea Tree Gully and Glen Osmond stone as well as Willunga slate for the roof. It is believed to be the third oldest Catholic Church in South Australia and when constructed, was thought to be too isolated from the main hub of North Adelaide. However it did serve well the Catholics from the surrounding suburbs of Bowden and Hindmarsh.
A peek inside the church reveals a magnificent high hammer-beam roof together with matchboard ceiling. The former rectory sits next door to the church and has been well preserved.
Before St Peter's Cathedral was built, Christ Church was the main Anglican presence in North Adelaide and the trio of buildings fronting onto Palmer Place in North Adelaide, notably the church, the Rectory and Bishop's Court (the Bishop of the Anglican Church's residence) were established in the 1850's, built with locally quarried stone. The church itself is described as a good example of Romanesque architecture and the stone work resembles what you might see when you visit the Cotswolds in UK.
The view from the church across the park towards Adelaide is reminiscent of a typical English scene and the church still holds services today.
Along busy North Terrace in Adelaide, at the intersection of Pulteney Street lies a church that was once described as "essentially a country church placed in a town" and regarded as "not fitting with the architectural beauty of Adelaide" - Scots Uniting Church. The church began its life as Chalmers Free Church and when erected, was a typical example of freedom of different types of religions allowed to practice in South Australia. The church boasts being the second oldest church remaining in this part of the city of Adelaide.
Scottish immigrants were originally a group of prominent Adelaide citizens who supported the Free Church of Scotland movement. It operated as a Presbyterian church for many years until 1977 when it became part of the Uniting Church family. With the use of technology the church can be toured via your smart phone, with capacity to view the magnificent stain-glass windows as well as the honour boards.
Whereas the Anglicans lost out on their desire to build around Victoria Square in the city, the Catholics were able to purchase land and even today the Catholic Diocese own a large swath of land including that which houses the first 6-star rated building in Adelaide - SA Water. First consecrated in the 1850's St Francis Xavier Cathedral, facing onto Wakefield Street in the city has taken roughly 145 years to complete, with the most recent addition being the tower, only added in 1996. The cathedral is an imposing structure and walking through its doors away from the harsh sunlight, you feel like you have entered a different world so close to the hustle and bustle of city traffic yet so peaceful within.
Believed to be the oldest cathedral in Australia, Francis Xavier in its architecture has adopted the number 7, which is deeply significant in religion as a symbol of natural and religious perfection. As a result, there are 7 arches, 7 pairs of windows on each side and 7 external doors.
Next time you are out and about, take time to admire and view some of our great churches and cathedrals - you might be surprised at what you discover!