The St. Francis Xavier's Church in Berrima was originally known as St. Scholastica's and was built on the site of the convict stockade. Archbishop John Bede Polding, the first Catholic archbishop in Australia, laid the foundation stone in 1849. Designed by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin, the church was built and completed in 1851 by William Munro.
Interior of St. Francis Xavier Church in Berrima. Photo from the NSW Environment and Heritage website.
On 28 January 2008, the church was placed in the New South Wales Heritage Register, which describes it as of an Early English Gothic idiom design of around the mid thirteenth century, which consists of a four-bay nave, buttressed at the corners, with north porch and a single bellcote astride the west gable; a two-bay chancel with diagonal buttressing to its east wall; and a sacristy abutting the chancel south wall.
Fr. Albert Wasnoiski stands outside the church after its refurbishment in 2010. Photo from Southern Highlands News website.
The St. Francis Xavier's Church in Berrima is of state significance because it is the only intact and essentially unaltered Pugin-designed building in Australia. Pugin is widely known as England's greatest and most influential early-Victorian designer and theorist. He has worked on the design of the Houses of Parliament in London. This church building is one of only two such Pugin churches of its particular typology in the world. The other one is Our Lady and St Wilfrid's, Warwick Bridge, Cumbria, England.
The old gaol at Berrima. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.
Just 130 kilometres southwest of Sydney, or less than 165 kilometres northwest of Canberra, this heritage church building is located at the intersection of Oldbury Street and Hume Highway in Berrima, a historic village in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales, mid-way between Sydney and Canberra. Around 20 kilometres further down the Hume Highway is the Pauline Fathers' Monastery Shrine of Our Lady of Jasna Gora, known for its international chapels representing the many cultures and peoples in Australia. A visit to Berrima, therefore, is a worthwhile effort not just from the religious perspective, but also for a better appreciation of the history and culture of Australia and its people.
The historic courthouse at Berrima. Photo from Historic Berrima Village website.