History of Bendigo Parish (St Kilian's)

Following the discovery of gold in Bendigo late in 1851 and with a large denomination of Cornish and Irish diggers it was not surprising that on Sunday May 2nd, 1852, the first Catholic mass on what was then a fledgling goldfield, was conducted by Rev Dr Henry Backhaus in a canvas tent.

Before the year had ended, Dr Backhaus had selected the site where St Kilian’s sits today.

It was obvious that a simple tent was never going to meet the needs of a growing congregation so, one year later, a larger building replaced the 1st St Kilians. This new church was a slab and canvas structure assembled in 1853 by Dr Backhaus and some energetic members of the congregation in one afternoon.

In May 1856, construction of a stone church commenced. Topped by a slate roof, the church was a grand site with its 22 buttresses and four entrances. However, only 30 years later, the building was condemned as the walls were cracking and crumbling.

In late 1887, the St Kilians that we know so well today emerged. Designed by W.C.Vahland, it is one of the largest weatherboard churches in the world. The new St Kilian’s was opened by Bishop Crane in July 1888.

In 2002 Bishop Joseph Grech celebrated mass to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the church.