Skip links and keyboard navigation

St Josephs Cathedral

  • 600822
  • 170 William Street, Rockhampton


State Heritage
Register status
Date entered
21 October 1992
Religion/worship: Cathedral
8.1 Creating social and cultural institutions: Worshipping and religious institutions
Stanley, Francis Drummond Greville
Construction period
1893–1982, St Josephs Cathedral (1893 - 1982)
Historical period
1870s–1890s Late 19th century


170 William Street, Rockhampton
Rockhampton Regional Council
-23.38613352, 150.50657467


Street view

Photography is provided by Google Street View and may include third-party images. Images show the vicinity of the heritage place which may not be visible.

Request a boundary map

A printable boundary map report can be emailed to you.


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

The cathedral demonstrates the growth of Rockhampton during the late nineteenth century. The substantial sandstone building constructed in 1892-3 as the first Roman Catholic Cathedral in Rockhampton reflecting the creation of the Diocese of Rockhampton in 1882.

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

The building is characteristic of substantial Gothic revival cathedrals, with sandstone construction, cruciform plan, Gothic detailing, steeply pitched roof, towers with spires, stained glass panels and internal furnishings and fittings.

Criterion EThe place is important because of its aesthetic significance.

The building has aesthetic merit as a well composed building and a Rockhampton landmark.

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

The building has special associations for the Roman Catholic Community of central and north Queensland as their cathedral.

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 building is associated with the architect, FDG Stanley and with many influential archbishops of the Rockhampton Diocese.


St Joseph's Roman Catholic Cathedral was constructed in 1893-9 as the first catholic cathedral of Rockhampton manifesting the creation of the Diocese in 1882. The building was designed by prominent Brisbane architects, FDG Stanley and Son.

The first official Roman Catholic service in Rockhampton was held in May 1862, when Bishop Quinn of Brisbane sent two young priests on a pastoral visit. Father James Scully and Father Patrick Duhig arrived aboard the Clarence and celebrated Mass in the local Court House with about fifty Roman Catholic people. Whilst in Rockhampton the two priests instigated a fund raising exercise to support the construction of a church. This building was opened by Father J Moynahan on 4 January 1863, dedicated to St Joseph. Its location was on the corner of Derby and Alma Streets.

Father Charles Murlay, later Dean Murlay, was appointed to the Rockhampton parish and looked after an area extending from Gladstone to Townsville and west to Blackall. In 1876 Bishop Quinn suggested that a site be found for the construction of a suitable cathedral as the parish was to become a Diocese. Land in William Street was secured by February 1877 and by 1883 the parish had raised £4000 for the construction of a cathedral. On 21 May 1882 Bishop John Cani was consecrated as the first Bishop of Rockhampton and he planned in earnest for the construction of a cathedral.

Plans were prepared by Brisbane architects FDG Stanley and Son. Francis Drummond Greville Stanley was responsible for the design of many substantial churches throughout Queensland including St Patrick's Roman Catholic Church at Gympie, Holy Trinity Anglican Church at Fortitude Valley and St Paul's Presbyterian Church, Spring Hill. Tenders were called for the construction of the cathedral in Rockhampton and construction began on 11 June 1894. A memorial stone was laid by Bishop Cani on 17 March 1895. Sandstone stone was quarried for the building from Stanwell Quarry, about 24 km west of Rockhampton and owned by Bishop Cani.

Cani died before the completion of St Joseph's Cathedral. His successor, Bishop Higgins, arrived on 20 July 1899 to a building only partially completed. Within two months of his arrival the cathedral was completed with a temporary east wall. Apparently local architects, Eaton and Bates were involved with the design of this final stage of construction. On 15 October 1899 an official opening ceremony was held when Cardinal Moran of Sydney celebrated Pontifical High Mass.

In 1918 the cathedral's flying buttresses were removed and strengthened. In 1980 the church received advice that the temporary wall of 1899 was unsafe and a programme was instigated for finally finishing the building. On 22 May 1982, His Eminence, Sir James Cardinal Freeman, Archbishop of Sydney, dedicated the completed cathedral. In 1987 the stained glass panels, first erected in the church in the first decade of the twentieth century, were returned to John Hardman Studios in England where they were restored before being returned to the St Joseph's Cathedral.


St Joseph's Roman Catholic Cathedral is a substantial sandstone building with traditional cruciform plan, comprising a nave, side aisles, transepts, apsidal chancel and two towers flanking the western front of the building. The cathedral is constructed from rockfaced coursed sandstone, with smooth faced sandstone detailing including coursing, mouldings, window and door surrounds and tracery.

The principal façade of the building, the west front, is symmetrically composed and comprises a central entrance, a large traceried window above, several smaller openings and all flanked by two large towers. The towers are surmounted by broach spires, constructed from ashlar sandstone. The principal entrance to the building is through a pointed arched opening recessed in a heavily moulded doorway set within a projecting porch element with steeply pitched gabled awning. On the face of the gabled section, above the doorway is diaper work carved in the stone.

The interior of the church is traditionally arranged, with a nave separated from side aisles by a pointed arched arcade. A narthex area, near the entrance, is also separated by a pointed arched arcade. The arcades are of ashlar sandstone and comprise simple round columns with moulded caps surmounted by moulded arches. The ceiling is vaulted to the shape of a shallow pointed arch and clad with horizontal timber boarding and lined with several heavy timber pointed arched rafters. The clerestory is formed with groups of three pointed arched openings. A gallery at the western front end of the church is supported above the narthex on the arcade separating the narthex from the nave.

The interior of St Joseph's Cathedral houses many finely crafted items, including a black and white Italian marble 'checkerboard' tiled floor and a number of stained and coloured glass panels depicting scenes from the New Testament. The stained glass windows were designed and manufactured by John Hardman and Son of England.

Image gallery


Location of St Josephs Cathedral within Queensland
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Last updated
20 January 2016
  1. Is your feedback about:
  2. (If you chose ‘website’ above)

    Page feedback

    1. How satisfied are you with your experience today? *
  3. (If you chose ‘service’ above)

    Feedback on government services, departments and staff

    Please use our complaints and compliments form.