Inner City Legacy – 1

As small communities grow into large towns, and as some of those towns become substantial cities, the pressure of development either squeezes out the original inhabitants, or it leaves them stranded in an alien environment.  In my lifetime, my home city of Brisbane, Australia, has grown rapidly from being a big parochial country town into a global city of  2.2 million people.  As a result, many of the old parish churches of Brisbane have been bulldozed to make way for skyscrapers and freeways.  A few still remain in the city centre, surrounded by office blocks and apartment towers, no longer dominating their environs, struggling to survive.

In Australia, the Methodists, Presbyterians, and Congregationalists carried out a corporate merger in the 1970s, rationalising an oversupply of protestant churches into one ‘Uniting’ group.  So this former Presbyterian brick church is now St. Andrew’s Uniting Church.  The original St.Andrew’s was an 1860s Victorian Gothic pile across the street to the right of this picture below, but it was resumed by the city at the end of the 19thC to make way for the railway that you can see in the bottom of the picture, and later demolished.  The church fathers of the day built this one as its replacement, choosing this time a Romanesque Revival design rather than a ‘true Christian architecture’ mock gothic style.

St Andrew's Uniting Church, Brisbane Australia

St Andrew’s Uniting Church, Brisbane Australia

As old churches go, particularly by European standards, this building is relatively new.  However, although it may be little more than a hundred years old, it is not without its charms.  Unlike its predecessor, there are no arcades, no separation of nave and aisles, just a wide open space with round arches leading to a shallow chancel, and to a very short transept occupied by two chapels, one on each side.

The Romanesque interior of St Andrew's Uniting Church, Brisbane Australia

The Romanesque interior of St Andrew’s Uniting Church, Brisbane Australia

A timber roof is not uncommon in Australian churches, but few hammer-beam constructions have as wide a span as this one.

The hammer-beam roof of St Andrew's Uniting Church, Brisbane Australia

The hammer-beam roof of St Andrew’s Uniting Church, Brisbane Australia

St Andrew’s also has some very nice stained glass windows.  At first glance, they are not very different from many late medieval windows that can be found in churches across Europe, except these were all made in the 2oth century, mostly memorial windows funded by wealthier members of the congregation, emulating that much older style.  I doubt that any of today’s heritage leadlight window manufacturers have the skills to produce picture windows of this quality, anymore.

Stained glass window inside St Andrew's Uniting Church, Brisbane Australia

Stained glass window inside St Andrew’s Uniting Church, Brisbane Australia

 

Many of the stained glass windows of St Andrew's are memorial windows, this one for a serviceman in the Great War (WWI)

Many of the stained glass windows of St Andrew’s are memorial windows, this one for a serviceman in the Great War (WWI)

Today, the church’s core congregation has dwindled to less than a third of what it was even fifty years ago, which is not surprising in an increasingly secular society like Australia.  However, the organ is apparently a magnificent instrument, and the acoustics inside St Andrew’s are also excellent, so this space is used extensively for musical performance of various kinds.  The church has a Director of Music, several paid choristers and three different choirs, and it supports a community orchestra, the Sinfonia of St Andrew’s.  So there is hope for its continuing community usefulness, even if, ultimately, that is no longer for religious services.

The organ of St Andrew's Brisbane.

The organ of St Andrew’s Brisbane.

 

Advertisements
Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: