St Mary Star of the Sea is one of the most beautiful and historically significant churches in Australia. The foundation stone of St Mary's was laid in 1882 and the building was completed by 1900. Since 2002 restoration has been ongoing to restore the church to its original splendour. Built with seating for over 1,200 people, it has been described as the largest parish church in West Melbourne, in Victoria, or even in Australia.
The foundations of the current church were laid in June 1892. A young and as yet unknown architect, Edgar J. Henderson, tendered plans for a grandiose sandstone cruciform in the French Gothic style. At 175 feet long and 94 feet wide, the proposed church was criticised by Archbishop Carr for being too large, but parishioners embraced the ambitious project. Within a year, however, economic depression had wrought havoc on the project's finance. Remarkably, in the face of devastating poverty, parishioners managed to fund ongoing construction, and church was built in eight years.
Phillip Kennedy took over Henderson's architectural role, and the contrast between the church's exterior and interior can be attributed to his influence. Henderson's rose windows, battered plinths, cylindrical turrets, and soaring groined timber ceiling exemplify the French Gothic Revival. Kennedy's glossy marble and granite pillars, intricate marble fittings, and pink tinted walls, however, betray an Italianate influence.
On 18 February 1900, Cardinal Moran opened and blessed the new church to great fanfare, before an assembly of 1,400. Local Catholic newspaper The Advocate remarked that "The congregation has literally emerged from the worst ecclesiastical building in the colony to enter one of the finest." The church was finally completed in 1925. On 12 February, His Excellency Archbishop Cattaneo, Apostolic Delegate, dedicated the new marble high altar and consecrated the completed church.
Note that the spire of the church (the "Fitzgerald Tower") was never added. Here you can see the original architectural sketch including the tower.