No. 178 - Our Lady of the Sacred Heart at Mangana - "The Cathedral of the Valley"

In 1896 a ‘special reporter’ to the Hobart Mercury described the settlement of Mangana:

“The township of this mining centre is situated in one of the prettiest little valleys in the colony, and with is flower clad cottages, its green meadows and surrounding hills, forms an enchanting picture of Tasmanian rural life… The village is situated five miles from Fingal Railway station… The population of the village is small, numbering only between 200 and 300, and chiefly comprised of women and children, the breadwinners of the families being employed at the Mathinna mines…. Indeed, for the jaded citizen requiring a rest in sylvan solitude no place could be better suited than Mangana”.

When this report was written the town was already in decline. Gold had been discovered at Mangana in 1852 and once the diggings were exhausted the gold rush proceeded on to nearby Mathinna. Although Mangana experienced a small revival in mining activity after the turn of the century, by 1930 the last mine had closed and the village went into a permanent decline. At the time of the 2016 census it had a population of only 36.

The church of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, also known as the ‘Cathedral of the Valley’, was opened in 1912. It was the second Catholic Church at Mangana, replacing an earlier church that was built 
by Father Michael Beechinor in 1869. This church was well supported during Mangana's boom times. In 1889 a report in the Mercury noted that the church was: 

“Filled to overflowing by an eager crowd of worshippers, who…showed their love and reverence for the priest who ministered so long to their spiritual wants. The Rev. P. O’ Reilly is very regular in conducting monthly service here, not withstanding the places he visits being so far apart as Campbell Town and St Mary’s, while Mathinna is also visited”.

The Missionaries of the Sacred Heart were responsible for a large district stretching from Campbell Town through the Fingal Valley to include St Mary’s, parts of the east coast as well as Mangana and Mathinna. A news report from September 1909 provides an insight into the demands that distance made on dedicated priests serving the Catholic faithful:

“A very sad death occurred here on Wednesday, when a bright and most promising youth of seventeen years succumbed to pneumonia. The lad, Derwent Turner (son of Mr John Turner, the veteran prospector) came home from Branxholm, where he has been working, ... He was then suffering from a severe cold, and got wet through on his journey. After being home a few days the deceased took to his bed, and was attended by Dr. Deane, who, however, could give little hope. Being of the Roman Catholic faith, word was sent to Rev. Father Graham, at Campbell Town, and that gentleman travelled through the night to Mathinna, arriving about 5 a.m., in time to administer the solid comforts of religion”.

At the turn of the century the necessity for a new church at Mangana had become urgent. Fundraising was begun by Father Graham, who seemed to have had ambitions for a building of some substance.

The foundation stone was laid on Sunday 13 November 1910 and the church was completed in late 1911. It was opened and blessed on 9 September 1912. The ceremony was reported in the Hobart Mercury:

“The quiet little village of Mangana was stirred into unusual activity on Sunday, when the new Church of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart was solemnly blessed and dedicated by the Most Rev. Patrick Delany, Archbishop of Hobart, who was assisted by Rev. Father Graham, M.S.H.”.

The opening ceremony began at 11am and was followed by a high Mass. The church was crowded with Catholics attending from nearby Fingal as well as from Avoca, St Mary’s, Mathinna and Pyengana.

The church was designed by Alexander North in the Arts and Crafts style. Unusually, it was built using the ‘slip form’ concrete method, meaning that concrete had to be poured continuously so as to avoid the appearance of joins or faults on the surface of the building. Machinery from the nearby mines was probably employed for this process.

The Mercury’s report of the opening of the church described a building that has remained unchanged up until the present day:

“It is an imposing structure, built in reinforced concrete, while handsome stained glass windows grace the edifice. The furnishings of the interior are a revelation, and those who were present for the first time were struck by the beauty of the fittings”.

If compared to churches in the larger towns of Tasmania, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart is not an especially large church. But its gleaming white concrete walls and robust soaring tower create the illusion of size especially when juxtaposed against the handful of scattered cottages that remain at Mangana. In this setting it deserves the title of “Cathedral of the Valley.



Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Sources:

Cornwall Chronicle Wednesday 23 June 1869, page 3
Mercury Friday 1 November 1889, page 3
Mercury Thursday 2 January 1896, page 4
Mercury Saturday 4 July 1903, page 8
Daily Telegraph Friday 3 September 1909, page 7
Daily Post Wednesday 26 October 1910, page 3
Daily Post Tuesday 15 November 1910, page 4
Examiner Monday 2 September 1912, page 7
Examiner Wednesday 11 September 1912, page 7

Southerwood, W. T Planting a faith in Tasmania. Southerwood, Hobart, 1970.




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