Inspiring look at state’s churches

With its striking appearance and dramatic roofline, St Patrick’s College Chapel at Prospect in Northern Tasmania has garnered attention since it opened in 1959.

Designed by Roderick Cooper, it is ‘representative of innovative post-war architecture of the 1950s’, according to Duncan Grant. It remains one of Mr Grant’s favourite churches in Tasmania, and he has had a close look at many of them.

From ornate churches on a grand scale to the most humble places of worship in former army huts, Mr Grant is well on his to cataloguing all the past and present churches in the state. There is the added degree of difficulty in that some have vanished, while others have been altered, sold off or even moved from one end of the state to the other.
The project started almost by chance for South African-born Mr Grant, 60, of Launceston, who is Catholic and teaches history and religion at St Patrick’s College.

“I have a passion for buildings, an obsession, and I take a lot of photographs,” he said from an office next to the eye-catching St Patrick’s College Chapel.

“I discovered I had quite a few photographs of churches and I started to look for information on them. There is not much published … [or it is] inaccurate stuff, and I started doing some research on [the online database] Trove.

“Once you have a peek inside, it becomes more and more interesting. It just gathers momentum and takes on a life of its own.”

At first, Mr Grant estimated that there were about 200 churches of all denominations in Tasmania, but gradually came to realise that figure is closer to 1500 past and present churches.

“Initially, I was just going to look at the iconic churches and then I realised that the hidden ones and the small ones are just as interesting in terms of the communities and the stories behind them. And then I started to think about equity because there are a lot of churches on the fringes … and you can’t leave them out either,” he said.

“I ended up including everything, no matter how marginal or ordinary so at least there is some kind of record there. Churches were at the heart of the community. The stories – the social history – is disappearing as people die. And as communities break up, churches are sold off, and those stories are in danger of being lost. So that is a motivator: to record the histories.”

His research has taken him all over the state and to date he has written more than 970 articles, which he publishes on a popular blog ( Other Catholic favourites include Sacred Heart at Newstead, Our Lady of Lourdes at Devonport and Star of the Sea at Stanley.

Mr Grant is set to become a regular contributor to the Catholic Standard, providing fascinating insights into the history of Catholic churches in Tasmania.

Tags: News, Northern Deanery, Southern Deanery