St Johns Cathedral | Environment, land and water | Queensland Government

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St Johns Cathedral

  • 600076
  • 413 Ann Street, Brisbane City


Also known as
St John's Cathedral
State Heritage
Register status
Date entered
21 October 1992
Religion/worship: Cathedral
8.1 Creating social and cultural institutions: Worshipping and religious institutions
Pearson, John
Rodgers, Peter
Construction period
1906, St Johns Cathedral (1906 -)
Historical period
1900–1914 Early 20th century


413 Ann Street, Brisbane City
Brisbane City Council
-27.46390597, 153.03005518


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Criterion AThe place is important in demonstrating the evolution or pattern of Queensland’s history.

It is important in demonstrating the evolution of Queensland's history, in particular the development of the Anglican church.

Criterion BThe place demonstrates rare, uncommon or endangered aspects of Queensland’s cultural heritage.

As a rare and scholarly attempt of an authentic essay in a French Gothic Cathedral, it demonstrates a rare aspect of Queensland's cultural heritage.

Criterion DThe place is important in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a particular class of cultural places.

It demonstrates the principal characteristics of the ecclesiastical work of English architect JL Pearson

Criterion EThe place is important because of its aesthetic significance.

It exhibits particular aesthetic characteristics valued by the community, including:

(i) the quality of materials, details and craftsmanship of the building and its associated furniture, fittings and artwork;

(ii) its position as the centrepiece of a well integrated group of ecclesiastical buildings and spaces on an important city site; and

(iii) the level of craftsmanship exhibited by the vaulted stone ceilings and the ornate timber carving on the choir stalls.

Criterion GThe place has a strong or special association with a particular community or cultural group for social, cultural or spiritual reasons.

As the focal point of Anglican worship in Brisbane and the seat of the Archbishop, it has a strong and special association with the community.

Criterion HThe place has a special association with the life or work of a particular person, group or organisation of importance in Queensland’s history.

It has special association with Bishop Webber and his vision of a grand Cathedral.


Construction of St John's Cathedral began in 1901 and has proceeded in several major stages to the present.

When the Diocese of Brisbane was created in 1859, St John's Church in William Street became the Pro-Cathedral. Preliminary plans for a cathedral were made by the first Bishop of Brisbane, Edward Tufnell, in the 1860s, but never came to fruition. In 1885 William Webber was consecrated the third Bishop of Brisbane, and throughout his episcopacy devoted considerable time and energy to the cathedral project. Webber chose the Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1887 to launch a scheme to raise subscriptions towards the building of the cathedral. He made five trips to England to raise funds for the construction of St John's Cathedral.

Webber engaged noted English architect John Pearson to design the Cathedral. Pearson was widely recognised for his expertise in Gothic Revival architecture and was responsible for the design of Truro Cathedral. Pearson's design was in the spirit of thirteenth and fourteenth century English Gothic with many characteristics of French Gothic.

The estimated cost of the first stage, including the sanctuary, side chapels, transepts and one bay was £33,000. Despite considerable fund raising efforts, by 1898 £22,875 was still required to build the first section. In 1899, as a result of several factors the Church decided to build the Cathedral on an elevated site in Ann Street. The Pro-Cathedral land was purchased by the government in the same year for £33,000 and this provided the funds to purchase the new site.

Pearson died in 1897, leaving his son Frank to continue the design work and Robin S Dods, was appointed supervising architect. The foundation stone was laid by HRH, George, Duke of Cornwall and York (later King George V) on 22 May 1901. [1] The contract for the first stage was awarded to Peter Rodgers from Ballarat in April 1906. Work commenced immediately [2] and was completed in 1910. The remains of Webber, who had died in 1903 before his dream was fulfilled, were re-interred under the High Altar. The pulpit and cross were designed by Frank Pearson and crafted in England. The first three canon stalls were carved in England from Indian teak. Additional stalls, carved by Colin Blumson in Queensland maple, were added in the 1950s and 1960s.

Work commenced on the second stage in 1957, when foundations of two bays of the nave and side aisles were laid under the supervision of architects Conrad & Gargett. This work cost £9639. The stonework for this section did not commence immediately. In 1965 a contract was let and the work completed in 1968. On 22 November 1968, the extensions were consecrated by Archbishop Strong. The foundations for the final bay and west towers were constructed during these extensions.

A set of eight bells have recently been hung in the north-west tower. These bells were cast in 1876 by Messrs John Warner and Sons, London, and were initially housed in a timber belfry in the grounds of the Pro-Cathedral. They were then re-located in a timber belfry (designed by Robin Dods) in the cathedral grounds before being placed in their present position.

Further work began in June 1989 and involves the extension of the nave, and the construction of two western towers, central tower and porches. This retains the external form of the original design of the reinforced structure.


[1] 'Cathedral Foundation-Stone', The Queenslander, 1 June 1901, p. 1024; 'Cathedral Foundation-Stone', Brisbane Courier, 23 May 1901, p. 5.

[2] 'Queensland News', Morning Bulletin, 20 April 1906, p. 5; 'The Mail Bag', The Queenslander, 21 April 1906, p. 34.


St John's Cathedral is a Gothic revival building in the manner of French Gothic cathedrals, highlighted by the use of a chevet. The external stonework is porphyry (Brisbane tuff) from Windsor quarry. The interior stonework is Helidon sandstone, while the openings and ornamental stonework are New South Wales sandstone. The roof is constructed of terracotta shingles.

The building is laid out in the form of a traditional cross with a double aisle on either side of the nave, with chapels flanking the ambulatory at the sanctuary end. The transepts have flanking turrets. Two more turrets flank the sanctuary end of the building. The buttresses on the building are relatively small in proportion to the height of the nave, a characteristic of later Gothic cathedrals. Diminutive flying buttresses are used at appropriate points. This resulted in some failures during the initial construction, and has been a contributing factor in the later stages of the building having been completed using a steel frame structure.

The most dominant internal feature is the 18 m high stone ribbed vaulted ceiling. In the nave these are sprung from a clerestory level. A gallery runs above the inner aisles on each side of the nave. Two small Gothic arched openings occur for every larger one below running down each side. The transepts are similarly vaulted but without aisles. The crossing consists of a broad stone vault based on an almost square plan form. Beyond this is the choir which extends in the same width as the nave to an apsidal end. This is surrounded by an ambulatory and flanked by two small chapels. The northern Lady Chapel has slender compound columns detached from the walls supporting the quadripartite vaulting system. A circular tracery window is a feature of the end wall of the northern transept. The stained glass has a wide variety of styles, artists and dates. The choir stalls are ornately carved timber elements. The communion rails, the work of L J Harvey are of Queensland maple.

St John's Cathedral is the centrepiece of a complex comprising The Deanery [600078], Webber House [600079], Church House [600077] and St Martin's House [600075].

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Location of St Johns Cathedral within Queensland
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Last updated
20 January 2016
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