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St Colman’s Church

(formerly Church of the Holy Angels)

293 Carlisle Street, St Kilda East

The Church of the Holy Angels was built in 1900 at a cost of £2000. In 1907 the church was broken into but fortunately nothing was stolen because the priest prudently removed the silver after Mass every Sunday.[1] It became a separate parish in 1912 with the Reverend John Barry, assisted by the Reverend T. Bride. The foundation stone for the enlarged church was laid in August 1913 and the church was opened on 30 November 1913 by the Archbishop of Melbourne, the Most Reverend Dr Carr. The Reverend Barry was the pastor at the time. Brick reinforced pillars with arches had replaced the old wooden walls. A new gable window, organ gallery and four entrances were added and with new seating and other embellishments the work cost about £12,000. The architects were Watts and Sons and the contractor was James Brown. Cooper described the interior as ‘impressive. The high altar, and the side altars of the Sacred Heart, and Our Blessed Lady, are aids to devotion. There are beautiful decorated statues of the Sacred Heart, and the Blessed Virgin, adorning the side altars. The altar rails are artistic, with a rich carpet, and a massive candelabrum; these, and other furnishings, it is said “make the Church of Holy Angels, Balaclava, the most devotional one outside of [the city of] Melbourne”.’[2]

The parish was made a separate parish in 1926 in the care of the Reverend M. J. Keenan. The foundation stone for a new church was laid on 16 June 1929 by Archbishop Mannix. C. D. Rose was the architect and R. V. Ritchie the builder. The work cost £10,288 and was opened on 1 December 1929 by the Apostolic Delegate, Dr Cattaneo.[3] Stylistically, it is a fusion of Byzantine and Romanesque. The symmetrical facade is dominated by a central porch and the side towers. The upper parts of these towers were removed several decades ago, presumably due to structural failure.

St Colman's Church with Towers

 On 7 September 1939 the parish was re-named St Colman’s. The change of name was justified because there was no feast of Holy Angels in the church calendar and the name had never caught on. A groom missed his wedding appointment because a tram conductor and a policeman assured him there was no church named Holy Angels in the area. The school had taken the name Holy Redeemer and the Hibernians had called their branch St Colman’s. The tennis club took their name of Glen Eira ‘from the pavement’ while the football team adopted the name Balaclava. The club ‘had modestly declined the name [Holy Angels] — perhaps with good reason. On muddy days it might not look well, and on rough-neck days it might not sound well’.[4] St Colman’s continues to operate as a church and there is a school adjoining it.

Parish hall and presbytery

The parish hall and presbytery were in McWhae Avenue, in the city of Caulfield. The hall was opened by Archbishop Mannix in February 1914 and was designed to accommodate 400 people. The timber from the original church was used in its construction. The new presbytery on the corner of Carlisle Street and Carlisle Avenue was opened on 3 October 1926.

School Hall

The asymmetrical school hall complements the design of the church. Its tower is intact. The hall is on the ground floor and classrooms above. It was built in 1938-39.

[1]     The Advocate, 12 October 1907.

[2]     Cooper, History of St Kilda, pp. 352-3.

[3]     The Advocate, 18 June 1929.

[4]     Ibid., 7 September 1939.