Forrest, ACT - St Christopher's Catholic Cathedral

Year Built: 1938

Denomination: Roman Catholic

Saint: Christopher

Address: Franklin Street, Forrest, Australian Capital Territory, 2603

Architect: Clem Glancy

Architectural Style: Romanesque

Traditional Owners: Ngunnawal people

Last Updated: 07/05/2024

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History and Architecture:

The Cathedral is a Romanesque style building made of brick. The Romanesque wall arches and window jambs are all formed of cream, rounded moulded bricks, as are the door architraves. Its south-east front is symmetrical, dominated by a large rose window above a decorative arched entrance in synthetic stone. Large recessed wall arches in moulded bricks enhance the facade, as do the raking corbel arches under the main gable. About mid-way on the Franklin Street wall of the building is a bell tower, almost double the height of the building. Standing approximately 31 metres high, it is built in the style of an Italian campanile. At the foot of the tower is a side entrance to the nave and a separate entrance to the chapel. The floor of the building is of tallow-wood and the joinery of Pacific maple.

The builder was Mr Warren McDonald of Queanbeyan and the architect Mr C. Glancy of Sydney. The cream bricks were especially moulded by Punchbowl Brick Co. in Sydney.

The square tower has a copper roof and is ornamented with a tall cross . It contains three bells, one that was formerly in the Sacred Heart church in Darlinghurst which was installed in 1973 when the tower was erected, and two bells cast in Holland which were presented to the Cathedral in 1986 by the Morrison family.

The original bell for the church was never satisfactory and in 1986, two large bells made in Holland were installed into the bell tower to join the original bell. These two bells were a gift from Father John Morrison as a memorial to his parents of Tralee Station at Queanbeyan and are inscribed with their names, "John" and "Mary".

An Historical wall plaque reads in part, "St Christopher's Cathedral is the largest church in the national capital and the principal church of the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulbum. St.Christopher's was built as the first parish church of Canberra by the first pastor, Father Patrick Haydon. On 30 January 1927, in the time of Bishop John Barry, the foundation stone of St Christopher's school was laid by Archbishop Kelly of Sydney. From Christmas Eve 1927, the Catholic community of Canberra had begun to assemble for Mass in the hall of the new St Christopher's SchooL On 27 February 1928, St Christopher's Parish was established with Father Haydon appointed first Parish Priest. In 1936, Father Haydon was appointed Dean of Canberra, and it is to him that St Christopher's owes its existence. On 8 May 1938, following the depression, Father Haydon decided to build a church for Canberra, and the foundation stone was laid by Archbishop Gilroy of Sydney. It was dedicated to St Christopher because it was thought that Canberra (which means "meeting place") would be a place to which many travelers would come. On 4 June 1939, the parish church of St Christopher's was officially opened by the Apostolic Delegate, Archbishop Panico, in the presence of the Primc Minister, Robert Menzies".


This list may not contain every serving cleric, past or present, for this church.
Further submissions welcomed.

Years Name Annotation D.o.B D.o.D
1939 - Monsignor Haydon 1949
1947 - Father Vivian Morrison
1967 - Father Thomas Cahill 1978
1978 - 1983 Archbishop Edward Clancy
2019 ? - Most Reverand Christopher Prowse


The present pipe organ was built by Hill, Norman & Beard and was used by St James' Anglican Church, King Street, Sydney, whilst their organ was being rebuilt. Its size was doubled when installed on the gallery 26 September 1972. It has 2 manuals, 28 speaking stops (8 ranks + mixture extended), 3 couplers, electro-magnetic action.
For a complete descriptiion and photos click here.


1. 2024 Simon Saunders for details of Architect


1. Church wall plaque.
2. Organ Historical Trust of Australia with permission.