Story: Public, commercial and church architecture

Catholic basilicas

In the 1890s classical revival basilicas became a popular style for Catholic churches. The style distinguished them from Protestant churches and emphasised links with Rome. St Peter's Basilica in Rome provided a model for the building type, and while the form varied, basilicas had some common features. These included a cruciform floor plan and the division of interior space into aisles. Usually the central aisle was higher than the colonnaded flanking aisles and was lit by clerestory windows. Sometimes a dome rose above the central aisle at the meeting point of the transepts – the centre of the cross. Some basilicas featured a colonnaded entrance portico and two flanking towers; others were more Byzantine in style and had arched entrances.

The leading practitioner of the basilica style in New Zealand was architect Francis Petre, who in the late 19th and early 20th centuries designed many Catholic churches and eight basilicas. All but one were in the South Island and were of brick, Ōamaru stone or masonry construction. Roll over the map to see each building. (In 2014 the future of the Christchurch basilica was uncertain; it had partly collapsed in the 2011 earthquake.)  

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How to cite this page:

Ben Schrader, 'Public, commercial and church architecture - New takes on old styles, 1900 to 1930s', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/interactive/44764/catholic-basilicas (accessed 15 November 2019)

Story by Ben Schrader, published 22 Oct 2014