HERITAGE LISTED: St John’s Lutheran Church.
HERITAGE LISTED: St John’s Lutheran Church. Mike Knott

The story of that beautiful church with the blue cross

ON APRIL 3, 1960, a ground-breaking new building was dedicated in Bundaberg.

It was the new St John's Lutheran Church, and it has a fascinating story.

Designed by renowned architect Karl Langer who was commissioned in 1955, the church building is one of the most iconic buildings in the city and is filled with symbolic meaning.

Pastor Wayne George, who joined the church last December, said an important part of Lutheran faith was to focus on the cross.

"The blue cross on top has become a landmark," he said.

"Some people on the river actually use it as a beacon.

HERITAGE LISTED: St John's Lutheran Church.
HERITAGE LISTED: St John's Lutheran Church. Mike Knott

"I got an email last year extending the call to me and of course I did research and looked at the building but it's only when one stands in here that you get the full feel of the building."

Mr George, who moved to Australia from South Africa with his wife Samantha and their children, said the church had about 200 people come through it most Sundays.

"The focus is always on the cross," he said."

The carving of the church's crucifix.
The carving of the church's crucifix.

"When the preacher preaches he preaches to the side."

On June 11, 1940, Pastor M Reuther received an anonymous letter from a "progressive Lutheran" (later revealed to be Mrs Reuther) donating £1 for the building of a newer, larger brick church.

At that time, the church had been a smaller, timber building.

Karl Langer.
Karl Langer.

In 1947, the late Mrs Lovgren bequeathed £6000 and sums of money were pledged by church members.

With some careful budgeting and planning, a tender was chosen and members would go on to dig all the building's foundations by hand.

They also carted all the bricks, tiles, sand and gravel, mixed and poured the concrete and donated and milled the required timber.

HERITAGE LISTED: Pastor Wayne George from St John's Lutheran Church.
HERITAGE LISTED: Pastor Wayne George from St John's Lutheran Church. Mike Knott

The total cost of the building was £61,000 including the pews, organ and furnishings.

Several years ago, the decorative protruding bricks at the base of the building had to be smoothed off to prevent local thrill seekers from climbing the building, but the higher ones remain, making decorative patterns including a giant cross.

The architect who designed the St John's Lutheran Church, Karl Langer, was renowned for his avant garde designs.

HERITAGE LISTED: St John's Lutheran Church.
HERITAGE LISTED: St John's Lutheran Church. Mike Knott

Karl Langer was born in Vienna in 1903 and moved to Australia with his wife 36 years later.

He became well-known in Australia and in the 1940s worked as an assistant town planner in Brisbane.

However, it was not without controversy for Mr Langer, after an inquiry was launched into why a foreigner was given the job instead of a local returned soldier.

HERITAGE LISTED: St John's Lutheran Church.
HERITAGE LISTED: St John's Lutheran Church. Mike Knott

He worked throughout Australia and was the initiator of many influential urban design ideas such as the site for the Sydney Opera House and the pedestrianisation of Queen Street in Brisbane.

He campaigned for Brisbane's Queen St Mall and the use of the Brisbane River as a civic asset as well as designing buildings and churches and lecturing at universities.

Tomorrow would have been Karl Langer's 113th birthday. He died in 1969.

 

Seven things you may not have known about the church 

HERITAGE LISTED: St John's Lutheran Church.
HERITAGE LISTED: St John's Lutheran Church. Mike Knott

1. The front of the church is built in the form of an open Bible with passages from St John's writings about God's love for people and instructions on loving one another.

HERITAGE LISTED: St John's Lutheran Church.
HERITAGE LISTED: St John's Lutheran Church. Mike Knott

2. The centre panel of each of the stained glass windows is a scene from the Gospel of St John.

3. The end of each pew has the praying hands design (known as duerer), reminding people they're there for worship.

ICONIC BUILDING: St Johns Lutheran Church on George St Bundaberg. Photo: Paul Donaldson / NewsMail
ICONIC BUILDING: St Johns Lutheran Church on George St Bundaberg. Photo: Paul Donaldson / NewsMail Paul Donaldson

4. Facing the altar, to the right side is the baptismal font. It was donated in 1883 and has been used in all three St John's Lutheran Church buildings.

HERITAGE LISTED: St John's Lutheran Church.
HERITAGE LISTED: St John's Lutheran Church. Mike Knott

5. The wooden crucifix was carved from a single piece of King William pine from Tasmania, by Melbourne wood carver Alfred Schubert. At the time it was his biggest carving at 8ft. The Alpha and Omega sit either side, signalling that Christ is the beginning and the end. The lattice work on either side represents the tearing of a veil when Jesus died on the cross.

6. The church bell was cast in 1892.

7. The church organ is considered the finest one to have been made in Brisbane.



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