A MONOLITHIC Roman-style basilica founded and abandoned at Cathedral Place in Fortitude Valley was one reason it took more than 100 years to dedicate St Stephen’s Cathedral in Brisbane’s CBD.
St Stephen’s was a cathedral that confounded expectations.
Every visionary saw it differently – bigger or smaller or forgotten entirely – the similarity was that it was never originally meant to be what it was today.
And what it was, was “alive”.
Cathedral guide Peter Betros said in many ways he was glad St Stephen’s stayed Brisbane’s cathedral and was not taken over by the proposed Holy Name Cathedral.
“I think this is such a rich building,” he said.
“When I retired, I discovered this place, there’s so much history in here – the windows, the artwork, it’s alive.
“I know it sounds funny but it’s alive with history.”
St Stephen’s was only dedicated in 1989 after significant renovations and refurbishments.
Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge celebrated the 30th anniversary Mass of the dedication of St Stephen’s on Wednesday, December 4.
In his homily, Archbishop Coleridge paid tribute to those who built St Stephen’s and maintained it over the years.
The archbishop echoed Mr Betros, saying the cathedral was a place of life.
“(It is) a building that proclaims life, not just the fact of life but the fullness of life at the very heart of the city of Brisbane,” he said.
“This is a monument to life and Easter, what else could it be?”
He said because it was a monument to Easter it was also a place of death – indeed, it entombed many deceased archbishops of Brisbane.
Archbishop Coleridge said it was a modest cathedral.
He said it was not as grand as the great cathedrals of the world, but “it is a building we love and rightly so”.
“It may be dwarfed by the very pillars of steel and glass that surround it but it’s hard to think of anything that this city or any city needs more than this humble, beacon of light,” he said.
“It never failed in light through 30 years and more.”
The renovations that coupled with the dedication 30 years ago included upgrading and opening-up of the precinct.
For Mr Betros, St Stephen’s Chapel beside the cathedral was itself a monument to history.
“I love the little chapel next door,” he said.
“To realise that’s the oldest church in Queensland – it was there before Queensland was Queensland.”
Mr Betros said the chapel had been St Joseph’s Gregory Terrace’s first classroom.
It had also been where St Mary of the Cross MacKillop had once prayed.
“It’s just a nice place to be,” he said.