Our History

Our History

The History of St Laurence’s and Our Lady of the Rosary Churches

Our parish has two churches, St Laurence’s, North Adelaide, and Our Lady of the Rosary, (usually called Rosary church), Prospect.

St Laurence’s Church.

St Laurence’s was already a parish when the first Dominican friars arrived in 1898.

The building was designed by Wright Woods and Hamilton, and the builder was Michael McMullen. The foundation stone was laid on to March 1867, by Bishop Shiel. Only the nave of the present structure was built at that time. It was dedicated on 10 January 1869, again by Bishop Shiel.

The porch, sanctuary, confessionals and side altars were later additions, from 1909. The additions were designed by Edward John Woods, and built by Ligertwood and Park.

The church was finally consecrated in December 1949, by Archbishop Beovich. The relics in the altar are of St Dominic, and also the martyrs Auctus and Verecundus (of the latter, little is known).

The first Dominican parish priest, Fr Robert Spence OP, was later Archbishop of Adelaide.

The parish originally extended from the River Torrens in the south, to Junction Rd in the north; and from King William Rd and Main North Rd westward to the coast. In this large area there were estimated to be 700 – 800 Catholics at that time.

The windows and statues in St Laurence’s are a special feature. A statue of Jesus in a shrine on the left of the sanctuary shows him proclaiming his sacred name. This recalls that the first Holy Name Society in Australia was convened at St Laurence’s church in 1922. The details are set out on a plaque in the porch by the main entrance of the church.

Other statues and windows honour not only St Laurence, but also Dominican saints.

In alcoves in the nave are statues of St Laurence, the third century deacon and martyr, who is the eponymous patron of this church, who is shown holding a gridiron, the instrument of his martyrdom. Opposite is a statue of St Martin de Porres, one of the three Dominican saints of Lima, Peru. He is shown contemplating the crucifix which he holds in one hand, and holding a broom in the other – indicating his devotion to the cross, and the manual labour indicating his role in the priory as porter.

The windows behind the high altar show, from left to right, St Catherine de Ricci, St Thomas Aquinas, St Dominic, St Catherine of Siena, St Vincent Ferrer and St Rose of Lima. These are all Dominican saints. The statues on this altar are of St Dominic, on the left, and St Laurence, on the right.

The statuary group in a shrine on the right of the altar shows Mary and the infant Jesus giving the Rosary to St Dominic and St Catherine of Siena. Dominicans have from the earliest times used the Rosary for preaching. The legend is that the rosary was given to St Dominic, but in fact the rosary in some form existed before him, and developed in various ways after him. Before the shrine is a candelabra where you are welcome to light votive candles.

There are two other statues at the front of the church outside the sanctuary: St Joseph, on the right, and St Thomas Aquinas on the left.

A window in the nave has another image of Mary and the infant Jesus giving the Rosary to St Dominic.

A plaque in the porch gives some details of the foundation of the church, and another telling of the foundation of the inaugural branch of the Holy Name Society in Australia from this church.

There are also two brass plaques remembering two parishioners, one of whom was killed in World War I, the other accidentally killed in a flying accident. These are in the vestibules on either side of the main entrance.

There is another statue to Our Lady in a wooden shrine on the floor at the back of the church, and on the back wall a picture of St Mary of the Cross MacKillop (marked ‘blessed’ as she was then.)

In the gallery is a pipe organ, used at 11am Mass most Sundays.

The Church of Our Lady of the Rosary

Fr Spence bought land in Gladstone Rd to be a school and church, which was the customary way of establishing a new parish. (However, the parish remained North Adelaide and Prospect.) The school was opened in 1908, staffed by the Dominican Sisters from Stone, England, the successors of whom are still in North Adelaide.

The church of Our Lady of the Rosary in Barker Rd was planned by Fr Willliam Vincent Candler OP, as early as the 1920s. Fr Candler served the parish until his death in 1948.

The church was designed by Mr Herbert Jory, who also designed the marble high altar. The foundation stone was laid on 6 December, by Archbishop Killian. The church was blessed and opened on 28 November 1937, with fifteen hundred people attending, including the mayor of Prospect, Alexander Horne.

This church was consecrated on 2 December 1951. These details are recorded on a brass plaque inside the church, to the right of the main entrance, under a portrait of Fr Candler.

A plaque with an inscription in Latin, near the statue of St Dominic, states that the relics in the altar are of the martyrs Caesarius, Fidelis, and Maria Goretti.

Our Lady of the Rosary church, like St Laurence’s, has statues and other artworks, especially in honour of Dominican saints.

An outstanding feature is the large white marble crucifix to the right of the sanctuary, which is a memorial to Fr Candler from the parishioners in 1950.

The small mosaic embedded in the top of the high altar shows Mary with the infant Jesus giving the Rosary to St Dominic. (A recurring feature in Dominican churches.)

On the left side of the altar is a shrine with a statue in honour of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

On the other side is a shrine with a statue of Our Lady. She is shown trampling on a snake, a reference to the curse given to the serpent who tempted Adam and Eve: ‘I will put enmity between you and the woman’ (Genesis 2:15). This curse is actually fulfilled in the victory of Jesus, as the text goes on to say ‘between your seed and her seed; he will strike your head and you will strike his heel’. The ends of the crescent moon can also be seen at the base of the statue, referring to the vision in Revelation 12:1, ‘A great portent appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet.’ Before this shrine there is a candelabra where you are welcome to place votive lights.

On a plinth to the right is a statue of St Catherine of Siena, a Dominican Doctor of the Church.

On a plinth facing the altar on the right is St Dominic, shown seated reading in a meditative pose. On the other side is a similar statue of St Thomas Aquinas, another Dominican Doctor of the Church, shown reading in a more studious mode.

Far to the left of the altar is a statue of St Joseph.

On the walls at either side of the sanctuary are pictures of St Dominic and of St Mary of the Cross MacKillop, Australia’s first saint, and hopefully not the last.

At the back of the church, in the right hand porch, is a statue of St Martin de Porres, one of three Dominican saints of Lima, Peru. As usual, he is shown contemplating the crucifix, and holding a broom.

(Information obtained from: the North Adelaide Library History Hub, provided by Graeme Lange; “The First Hundred Years”, Fr Thomas P Fitzgerald OP , 1998; the Golden Jubilee booklet of Our Lady of the Rosary Church, compiled by Fr Thomas Fitzgerald OP and Br Martin Keogh OP, 1987; Mrs Angela Barrett, article in “Historic Homes and other Buildings in Prospect” published by the Prospect Local History Group, eds. David Johnston and David Kilmer, 2013. )