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St Ignatius' Church in Richmond, Victoria, Australia is a fine example of nineteenth-century gothic revival.

The building occupies a commanding site on Richmond Hill, a circumstance which allows the building to be admired from many vantage points. It combines an impressive solidity with a lightness deriving from its soaring vertical lines; on the exterior the building is seen to best advantage in a strong light, when deep and sharp-cut shadow emphasises the complexities of the intersecting lines of roof, arch and buttress.

A like light shows to advantage the usual exterior sculptured features such as the capitals of the columns enframing the portals.

Laying the Foundation

The foundation stone of the church was blessed and laid on 04 August 1867 by Dr John Bede Polding OSB, first bishop of the Catholic Church in Australia. The ceremonial opening of the nave, aisles and tower took place in March 1870. Building of the transept began in 1885 and was completed in 1888. Except for the spire, the church was finished in 1894 with the completion of the chancel. A memorial tablet recording the commencement of the spire was placed in 1927, and the completed spire was blessed by the Papal Legate in October 1928.

Building Style

St Ignatius' Church painting The plans for the church were drawn by the celebrated architect W W Wardell (1823 - 1899). Amongst other magnificent buildings, Wardell designed St Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne, and St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney.

A fine watercolour painting of the completed St Ignatius' Church as W W Wardell intended it to be, was executed by his son H E Wardell and is shown here. A notable departure from Wardell's plan was made in the building of the spire. The architect intended a tower of eighty feet with a spire of about the same height; in fact tower and spire together reach a height of about two hundred and fifteen feet.

The church is built in the style of the French Gothic of the 13th century. It comprises a nave and aisles, transept, an apsidal sanctuary with an ambulatory surrounding it, out of which open four chapels. There is a clerestory to the nave, transept and sanctuary. The tower is situated at the end of one of the aisles, and its lower storey once formed the baptistery.

Materials & Dimensions

The church is built of basalt, or bluestone, with white Sydney stone dressings. The pillars supporting the clerestory of the sanctuary are of polished red granite, while those of the others are of Malmsbury bluestone. The spire is built of stone from quarries in Footscray and on the Hawkesbury River.


Including the walls, the dimensions of the church are: length, 206 feet; width of nave and aisles, 64 feet; length of transept, 104 feet; height from floor to ridge of roof, 65 feet.

The contractors employed in the several contracts were Bonham and lastly Corlett and Smith. The contractors for the spire were Vaughan and Lodge, the architect being Vanheems.