Holy Name Cathedral Site | Environment, land and water | Queensland Government

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Holy Name Cathedral Site

  • 600208
  • Gipps Street, Fortitude Valley


Also known as
Holy Name Crypt and built sections of the Holy Name Cathedral
State Heritage
Register status
Date entered
21 October 1992
Religion/worship: Cathedral
8.1 Creating social and cultural institutions: Worshipping and religious institutions
8.6 Creating social and cultural institutions: Commemorating significant events
Hennessey, Hennessey & Co
Construction period
1927–1928, Holy Name Cathedral Site (1927 - 1928)
Historical period
1919–1930s Interwar period


Gipps Street, Fortitude Valley
Brisbane City Council
-27.45966926, 153.03266791


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

The remaining elements of the site are the only physical relics of Duhig's dream to build the largest cathedral in Australia, and of the design as documented by Hennessy Hennessy & Co., architects. The proposed development of the site was also the impetus for Duhig's speculative venture in the formation of the Queensland firm of Benedict Stone, a reconstructed stone used on several significant buildings in Brisbane.

The boundary walls are of significance by their association with the 1928 visit of Papal Legate, Cardinal Cerretti, a direct link with the Vatican and one of the most spectacular ceremonies that Brisbane has witnessed.

Criterion EThe place is important because of its aesthetic significance.

The perimeter walls of the site provide a visual link between the church's other religious establishments in the area, and have a significant influence on the surrounding streetscape, particularly Centenary Park, the form and axial layout of which are a direct response to the design of the proposed cathedral. The site's pivotal location between the Brisbane city centre and Fortitude Valley has played an important role in the development of town planning schemes that attempted to unite the two areas.

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

The Holy Name site has long standing associations with the Roman Catholic Church in Fortitude Valley.

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.

The Holy Name Cathedral site contains evidence that demonstrates its association with Archbishop Duhig, an important leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Queensland, who had a pervasive influence on both church and national life and was renowned for his involvement in the establishment of a number of church buildings in Queensland.


During the years 1912 to 1927, the Catholic Church undertook a building program in the Brisbane Archdiocese of enormous proportions. The quantity and quality of the buildings erected by the Catholic Church at that time represent a significant proportion of the best twentieth century architecture of Brisbane. Most were designed by eminent architects of the day and were located on hill tops to create landmarks that dominate Brisbane's skyline.

The site chosen for the proposed Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Name had strong and long standing associations with the Roman Catholic Church in Fortitude Valley. In 1862 Bishop Quinn took residence in a house named 'Dara' that had been built on the site in 1850. The building was replaced in 1890-91 by a much grander house of the same name, however in 1928 it too, was demolished to make way for the proposed Holy Name Cathedral. The site, near the intersection of Ann and Boundary Streets, was also an area of immense town planning interest.

The concept of a Holy Name Cathedral was the dream of Archbishop James Duhig (1871-1965). Duhig was a towering figure in the Catholic Church in Australia who played a significant role in the community not only as a churchman, but also as a politician, fundraiser and diplomat. Although Brisbane already had a Roman Catholic Cathedral, St Stephens (QHR 600107), completed in 1874 in Elizabeth Street, Duhig felt that this building and site were not a sufficiently glorious manifestation of Christendom as he perceived it. He maintained that in modern times the art of cathedral building had deteriorated and he saw himself as the patron to revise that art. An essential element of Duhig's dream was to have the foundation stone of the new cathedral laid by one of the Cardinals of the Vatican.

From the beginning it was proposed that the Holy Name Cathedral would become amongst the largest in the southern hemisphere. Particular emphasis was put on 'high class' architecture together with the use of Australian materials and workmanship. In 1927 the initial cost of the cathedral was estimated at £750 000. Fund-raising for a project of this size would have needed to have been on a scale unprecedented for a church in Australia. Duhig devised several strategies for raising the required funds, amongst them several unsuccessful investments in prospecting for oil at Roma. Another speculative venture was the formation of the Queensland firm of Benedict Stone Queensland Pty. Ltd. in 1928. The company produced a reconstructed stone based on an American process that intended for use on the new cathedral. Foundations for the proposed building use some Benedict stonework.

The design of the Holy Name Cathedral is attributed to the Sydney architectural firm of Hennessy, Hennessy & Co. During the 1920's, Duhig had worked with Jack Hennessy, son of the founder of the firm, on several ecclesiastical projects such as Stuartholme Convent at Bardon and the first stage of Villa Maria Convent in St Pauls Terrace, Brisbane. The plan of the Renaissance style cathedral was a Latin Cross formation, consisting of a 27.5 metre (90 feet) wide nave divided into a main central aisle and two processional aisles each 36.5 metres (120 feet) long. Across the transept it was to measure 66 metres (216 feet). The full length of the cathedral was 104 metres (340 feet). The proposed height of the main wall was 25.5 metres (83 feet) and flanking towers 39 metres (128 feet). The dome was to be covered with copper and surmounted by an enormous bronze cross. The exterior walls were to be built of polychromatic brickwork and terra cotta, although later the decision was made to face the building with Benedict Stone.

The first work to be completed on the site was the Ann Street perimeter wall. The wall, which was designed by Hennessy Hennessy and Co as part of the overall cathedral scheme, was paid for and built by the Brisbane City Council in return for the resumption of about 10 metres of church

Turning of the first sods on the Holy Name Cathedral site occurred in the presence of church and city leaders on 9 June 1927. Preliminary excavation and the setting of the concrete foundations for the towers and a larger portion of the perimeter walls took place in early 1928. Sunday, 16 September 1928, was the date for the consecration of the foundation stone by Papal Legate, Cardinal Cerretti, who had come to Australia for the Eucharistic Congress in Sydney. The occasion attracted 35 000 people and was highlighted by the placement of earth and stone from Rome under a foundation stone that had the Papal Arms emblazoned with the Cardinal's on the side. A matching block displaying the Duhig coat of arms was also laid over a foundation containing soil from the four provinces of Ireland.

Financial difficulties continued to plague to Holy Name Cathedral project and were exacerbated by the deep economic Depression affecting the entire nation. Between 1930 and 1935 Duhig managed to scrape together enough money to complete the crypt but no further constructional work on the Holy Name Cathedral site was ever made. A legal battle with the architects over payment of fees in 1950 and a formal church protest against Duhig, claiming imprudence, irresponsibility, malevolence and subservience to the wealthy, put an end to the dream of a new cathedral. Following the it is believed that Duhig never mentioned the cathedral in public again and took his dream with him when he died in 1965.

Removal of the two foundation stones and return of holy earth to Rome

In February 1985 the Roman Catholic Church sold the Holy Name Cathedral site to FA Pidgeon & Son Pty. Ltd. An application to demolish the built sections of the cathedral was submitted to the Heritage Committee in September 1991. In 1992 approval was given to demolish the crypt, the church foundations, the steps and part of the wall along Gotha Street. The perimeter walls along Ann Street and part of Gotha Street were retained.


The Holy Name Cathedral site is located between Gotha, Ann and Gipps Streets in Fortitude Valley. South-west of the site is an open space known as Centenary Place, which provides vista from the site to the City beyond. All Hallows School [600200] is located south-east of the site. The majority of the site is generally level, but elevated above street level.

Remnants of the Holy Name Cathedral site perimeter walls face Ann Street and Gotha Street. The walls are detailed in the Revival Classic architectural style and constructed of reinforced concrete with a coursed ashlar porphry stone facing. The wasll steps out at the rear and is separated from the solid rock face behind it. The gap between the wall and the rock face is rubble filled.

The base of the wall is constructed of porphry blocks with punched faces and tooled margins. The wall is capped with a freestone balustrade however the balusters have been removed and only the solid panels remain.

There are niches in the Gotha Street perimeter wall that are constructed of freestone and granite, and there is evidence that they once contains water features.

Image gallery


Location of Holy Name Cathedral Site within Queensland
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Last updated
20 January 2016
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