HERITAGE TREASURES

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HERITAGE TREASURES

The Archdiocese of Hobart has a great heritage of churches. Some of these buildings are well known to most Catholics, such as the much loved St Joseph’s, Hobart, built by Fr John Joseph Therry in 1841, St John the Evangelist’s, Richmond, the oldest continuously used Catholic church in Australia, and the noble Church of the Apostles, Launceston. But there are other gems hidden away in less familiar places.

In a beautiful valley to the north-west of Fingal is the delightful Church of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, Mangana. It was designed in 1910 for the then thriving mining settlement by the Launceston architect Alexander North. North is widely regarded as amongst Australia’s foremost practitioners of the period, his major works including Launceston Post Office and the great Anglican churches of Holy Trinity and St John in that city. As well as his architectural skills, North was an accomplished designer of furniture, his work displaying both originality and craftsmanship. When North combined his architectural and furnishing design talents he produced buildings of outstanding integrity and harmony. Perhaps nowhere is this better exemplified than in his Mangana church. For here he created a work in which virtually every piece of furniture—altar, pews, pulpit, pedestals, stools, credence table, and so on—is to his designs, resulting in a veritable Edwardian period piece, thankfully still completely intact.

A truly outstanding church, Mangana embodies many of North’s published philosophies for the design of small rural churches. It is an innovative design, nominally Gothic but freely interpreted, incorporating ground-breaking early use—for a church— of new construction technology, namely, reinforced concrete. It has an excellent composition featuring a tower and spire reminiscent of those to be found in the Bernese Oberland region of Switzerland. The building’s exterior detail is most originally created through the use of coloured tiles set into the wall surface in witty mimicry of traditional Gothic constructional elements such as string courses and drip-stones

Because of North’s consummate design skills the church has a presence far exceeding its diminutive size. It is not surprising that Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, Mangana, is affectionately referred to locally as ‘The Cathedral of the Valley’.

By Brian Andrews, Archdiocese of Hobart Heritage Officer.