Francis Rush Centre


The Francis Rush Centre brings to completion the restoration of the Cathedral Precinct.

Situated beside the Cathedral (view precinct map), the Centre comprises of four levels – two below the level of the Cathedral grounds and two above.

The key elements of the design include:

  • Covered space for use when liturgical celebrations begin outside the Cathedral, such as the Easter Vigil
  • Hospitality areas for gatherings before and after Cathedral services
  • Areas for clergy to vest for liturgies
  • Episcopal Centre
  • St Pauls Book Centre
  • Archdiocesan Development Fund
  • Meeting rooms
  • Additional car parking spaces for Cathedral worshippers.

This building enhances not only the liturgical and pastoral life of the Cathedral but the life of the city as well. Archbishop John Bathersby DD officially blessed and opened the Centre on Sunday 11 September 2005.

Archbishop Francis Roberts Rush

Archbishop Francis Roberts Rush was born in Townsville on 11 September 1916, one of the four sons of Thomas and Mary [nee Roberts]Rush. He was educated at St Joseph’s School, The Strand, Townsville, and Christians Brothers Schools at Townsville, St Joseph’s College, Gregory Terrace and Mt Carmel, Charters Towers. His seminary formation began at St Columba’s Springwood, New South Wales and was completed in Rome at the Propaganda Fide College.

He was ordained to the priesthood in Rome on 18 March 1939. Following his return to Australia he served at Sacred Heart Cathedral, Townsville (1939-1944), Mundingburra (1944-1950), Ingham (1950-1954). Fr Rush then became Parish Priest of Abergowrie (1954-1957) and Ingham (1957-1960).

On 8 February 1961 he was ordained Bishop of Rockhampton in St Joseph’s Cathedral. Of significance was his participation in all sessions of the Second Vatican Council. On 5 March 1973 he was appointed to the Metropolitan See of Brisbane. Archbishop Rush was installed as Archbishop of Brisbane on 29 May 1973 and he led this Archdiocese until his retirement on 3 December 1991. In May 1983 he was elected the President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, a post he held for three years.

Archbishop Rush’s greatest dream was to see St Stephen’s Cathedral restored to the principles of the reformed liturgy. This was finally achieved in 1989. He wished that the cathedral and its environment be opened up to the people of Brisbane as a place of welcome and prayer. The development of this Centre named in his honour, and the outside liturgical space are in accord with his vision for the Cathedral precinct.

Francis Rush died on 21 July 2001. This outline of significant dates and places cannot sufficiently express the magnitude of his contribution to the life of both the Church in Queensland and in particular the local Church of Brisbane as priest and bishop, wise and prudent leader and friend.

Archbishop Rush is remembered with affection for his compassion, wise leadership, humility and the depth and conviction of his faith in Jesus Christ.

His Episcopal motto sums up his life and his faith: Mihi Vivere Christus – life for me is Christ. Philippians 1:21

Architect’s statement

The Northern Development of the St Stephen’s Cathedral Precinct represents extraordinary vision by the Archdiocese. For the Archdiocese, the Cathedral Precinct has now been completed but more importantly, for the people of Brisbane it represents the gift of a new public space, one of the few new places in the CBD in decades. Whilst the building itself responds to a number of contextual concepts, it is the space created between the Francis Rush Centre and the Cathedral that represents one of the most important elements of this project.

Un-like other public places in the city, emphasis has been placed on the spiritual which gives the precinct a deeper meaning and significance. This meaning is predominately drawn from the life of St Stephen. St Stephen, the first Christian martyr, was an important figure in the development of Christianity and his progressive spiritual journey through life is seen to be analogous to a journey for spiritual fulfilment. Fra Angelico’s fresco in the Vatican painted in 1449 depicts in narrative the key events of his life which is shown in three stages; his ordination, the distribution of alms, his preaching and his condemnation/martyrdom. Other frescos of St Stephen by Fra Filippo Lippi for the Prato Cathedral also have this three stage narrative quality. It is this narrative quality in the external spaces and the sense of continuity that links the spaces together that has been intended.

In this instance, the three stages of St Stephen’s life have metaphorically been interpreted as three spaces, each having a particular character. Beginning at the Charlotte street end these manifest as the Contemplative Mound, the Community Court and the Liturgical Amphitheatre. Three major elements contribute to the definition of these spaces; the River of Stone, the etched glass façade and the Loggia/Liturgical roof and screen.

The River of Stone is a strip of landscape that forms a major axis parallel to the Cathedral which is suggestive of a time line. Through the use of form, texture, superimposed text and artwork, the solid sandstone elements together with the shaped land forms become abstracted elements of St Stephen’s life, enabling varying interpretations and experiences.

The etched glass façade contains a literal representation of our understanding of St Stephen by presenting Acts 6 and 7 from the Bible. Various signifiers are used in text to emphasise important events which are then paralleled in the River of Stone.

The glazed Loggia and Liturgical Space with its undulating suspended screen symbolically changes along its length from dark to light and lifts to both reveal views of the Cathedral and define the Liturgical Space. It is this space, where the screen is draped around the edges to suggest enclosure but opens in the centre to celebrate St Stephen’s martyrdom that perhaps best encapsulates the Catholic Church’s desire to be open and inclusive to the community at large.

Lawrence Toaldo BArch(Hons) FRAIA
Managing Director, Conrad Gargett

Works of Art

Francis Roberts Rush


Sandstone relief by Rhyl Hinwood, 2005, lower foyer

Francis Rush (1916-2001) was Archbishop of Brisbane between 1973 and 1991. A powerful preacher, a sharp intellect, a voracious reader, a wise pastor, and a dynamic leader, his life and ministry was shaped by the vision of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). His episcopal motto was Life to me is Christ (Phil 1:21).



Credo – Bronze sculpture by Thomas Justice, 2005, upstairs foyer

In passing beyond suffering and death, the risen Christ embarks on a living journey through the ages. He is alive in the community of faith which profess the words of the Creed, handed on from generation to generation of believers. The transformation of the resurrection is revealed in the image of the gum tree whose bark splits, peels back and hangs in shards. In baptism we cast of the old for the new and share the communion of the risen Christ.

Empire Stakes

Ironbark Posts and steel plates by Judy Watson, 2003, foyer entrance

In 1852, ironbark posts were placed at intervals along the boundaries of the one square mile of the Brisbane Town settlement. A curfew excluded undesirable or disorderly persons from the town after dark, a provision which included aboriginal people. Aboriginal artist, Judy Watson, has taken this symbol of exclusion and, by grouping them together, shows that there is no exclusion zone, that this is a place of welcome, justice and respect for all.

River of Stone


Carved sandstone blocks by Rhyl Hinwood, Mosaics by Scott Harrower, 2005, garden

The thirty monumental stone slabs forming the River of Stone establish a narrative thread through the site, telling the story of St Stephen, first martyr and patron of the cathedral. The account from the Acts of the Apostles is engraved on the glass panels along the length of the building. Key words from the story are carved in the blocks of the River of Stone.

The story begins at the Charlotte Street end with the appointment of seven deacons to care for those in need. The carved relief shows the separation of the seven, specially highlighting the pre-eminence of Stephen.

The second central zone refers to the powerful preaching of Stephen and his inspired explanation of the Gospel of Christ. The carved relief – the earth as God’s footstool – marks out in gold the ongoing history of God’s providence.

The final part of the narrative encircles the celebration space at the Elizabeth Street end. Chunks taken from each slab recall the stoning of Stephen (they form a cross in the centre of the pavement). The carved relief depicts the martyr’s palm branch of victory and the gold of the glimpse of heaven.

Near the gathering space one stone bears a mosaic panel showing all three of these phases in the Stephen story: his works of charity, his fearless preaching, and his martyrdom.