Address: 3401 Old Hume Highway Berrima NSW 2577

A brief history

Built on the site of the convict stockade. Originally known as St Scholastica’s, the foundation stone was laid by Archbishop Polding in 1849. The church was designed by the architect Augustus Pugin, who worked on the design of the Houses of Parliament in London.

When the town of Berrima was planned in 1830, provision was made for a Gaol and a Court House. Berrima was to be the administrative centre for the county of Camden.

Berrima is a unique and historic village, established in 1831, it is the only example of an existing and largely preserved Australian Georgian colonial town.

On 28 January 2008 Pugin’s Church of St Francis Xavier, Berrima, New South Wales, was placed on the New South Wales Heritage Register.

NSW does have at least one fine example of Pugin’s genius, Brian Andrews (Pugin Foundation) describes St Francis Xavier’s in Berrima as “the most perfect Pugin”.

He says: “It looks as if it had  been picked up by helicopter from somewhere in the English countryside and dumped in the middle of Australia.”

However, his greatest impact on Australian culture is not physical but intellectual.

“Pugin’s notion was that Gothic was Christian and Christian was Gothic,” Andrews says.

“It became the way people built churches and perceived churches should be. Even today if you ask
someone what a church should look like, they’ll describe a Gothic building with pointed windows and arches.

“Right across Australia, from outback towns with tiny churches made out of corrugated iron with a little pointed door and pointed windows, to our very greatest cathedrals, you have buildings which are directly related to Pugin’s ideas.

“There’s not a city in Australia that wasn’t influenced by him.” 

Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (1812 -1852)

An Englishman commissioned by Sydney Archbishop John Bede Polding to design a number of churches in Australia including St Francis Xavier’s Church in Berrima, St Stephen’s Church, Brisbane, and extensions to old St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney which was destroyed in a 1885 fire along with its stunning Pugin organ case, interestingly, he never visited Australia.

He displayed a talent for Gothic design at an early age, and at 15 he was entrusted to design the furniture for King George IV’s refurbishment of Windsor Castle. His most celebrated commission came when he was asked by Sir Charles Barry to design the interiors of London’s Houses of Parliament- Although Barry was the official architect, he asked Pugin to draw the sketches of the now world-famous exteriors.

During his life he produced thousands upon thousands of designs for buildings, and for the applied arts including textiles, woodwork-, metalwork, ceramics and stained glass.

Pugin converted to Catholicism in 1835 and embarked on a massive rebuilding program. He believed that if he could re-create the principles of Gothic architecture and design, the reinvigoration of spiritual values would follow.

Extracts from a SMH article (4 Feb 2003) “A genius in his Gothic splendour.”

For more information about the Pugin Foundation and further information about the Berrima church and other Pugin churches please visit their website: Pugin Foundation



Click here to take a virtual tour of St Francis Xavier Church, Berrima.
Virtual tour created by Fr Jospeh Maria Buckley OSPPE.


Return to Our Parish