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Architect to explore debate about design of Red Hill’s landmark church

High on the hill: St Brigid’s Church, Red Hill.

High on the hill: St Brigid’s Church, Red Hill.

By Paul Dobbyn

JUBILEE Parish associate pastor Fr James O’Donoghue expects plenty of discussion to be sparked by a July 27 talk on the architecture of Red Hill’s St Brigid’s Church.

Heritage expert and architect Robert Riddell will give the talk as part of an open-house day for the church’s centenary celebrations.

Fr O’Donoghue said the architect’s talk would consider ongoing debates on the originality of St Brigid’s design.

“One issue that is contested today is the relationship of the design to the famous Cathedral of Sainte Cecile at Albi in the South of France,” he said.

“Robert Riddell will highlight the originality of Dodd’s design and his development of sources to produce a highly original and unique building.”

Fr O’Donoghue said the church was already established as one of Brisbane’s “major landmarks, visible from many of the city’s vantage points”.

“When opened in 1914, the church was successful in making the Catholic Church visible when Catholics were very much a minority,” he said.

“Also a lot of people as you talk to them have had an event there – someone’s family, uncle, cousin, grandmother, great-grandmother was either buried, married, or baptised there.”

Speaking further on the architectural originality of St Brigid’s Church, Fr O’Donoghue said a commonly related story dealt with a meeting in 1912 between the architect Robin Dods and some parishioners.

“According to this story, the newly appointed architect, Robin Dods, showed some postcards of European churches and the meeting decided on ‘a design like Albi’,” he said.

“In recent times this point has become contentious as various architects and historians argue the case.

“However, many hold the resulting form of St Brigid’s is in many ways quite unlike Albi.

“For example, when you consider the buttressing system, St Brigid’s uses external arches of Roman/Normanequese style as opposed to the pointed Gothic style.”

Fr O’Donoghue described St Brigid’s Church as “a noble building in which I find it a great privilege to be able to celebrate the sacraments”.

“I hope many will avail themselves of the opportunity to visit on our open day.

“In this way they can experience the many features of this most remarkable church which is undoubtedly Robin Dods’ finest piece of ecclesiastical work.”

Robert Riddell’s talk will be held at 11.45am on Sunday, July 27.

St Brigid’s Church, listed as a heritage building by the National Trust,  will also participate in the Brisbane Open House event on October 11 and 12.

Held annually, the event features selected buildings around Brisbane which are opened for the public with guided and self-guided tours.

The interior of St Brigid's Church, Red Hill.

The interior of St Brigid’s Church, Red Hill.

Written by: Staff writers
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