St. Luke's in the City

Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia

 St Luke's in the City

Church building

History of St Luke's in the City

A Place of Worship

The Font and Paschal candle
Font and Paschal candle

A church building is not a museum. It is the place where the liturgy (communal worship) of the Christian community happens.

Liturgy is a living experience, for proclaming the Gospel and celebrating the Sacraments. Throughout the centuries of the Church successive generations have adapted the received traditions and sought to make them speak afresh to each new generation.

Altars, Lecterns, Fonts, seating, and other decorations have frequently been moved, and moved again, in order to best express an evolving theological understanding and a living liturgical expression of it.

In the liturgical space there are three principal symbols:

  • Font - the place of entry into the Body of Christ
  • Lectern - the place of proclamation of the Word
  • Altar - the place of celebrating the Sacrament

All other symbols and objects are of secondary importance. Liturgy at St Luke's is sacramental, meaning that it engages all the senses - sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste - because Christian faith is not merely cerebral, but a bodily experience.



St Luke's is a worshipping, learning, healing community served by a magnificent fully restored organ.

The organ is situated in a loft above the Vestry



The First Church

The Church Hall, now demolished, and the Vicarage were sited on one of the five Church Reserves set aside by the Canterbury Association before the 1850 settlement. In 1858 it was decided to erect a Chapel of Ease on the north-west reserve bounded by Kilmore, Manchester and Peterborough Streets.

St Luke's hall prior to demolition
St Luke's hall prior to demolition

The architect chosen was George Mallison. On St Luke's Day, 18th October 1858, after a service at St Michael's, Bishop Harper, accompanied by the Minister and Church Wardens of the Parochial District of Christchurch, laid the foundation stone on the site.

The first church building was constructed of wood and described by an observer as "ugly and barn-like". Completed and opened on December 30 1860, extended and altered from plans drawn by Benjamin Mountfort in 1871, it was finally demolished in 1908.

The Present Church

St Luke's viewed from corner of Manchester/Kilmore streets
St Luke's viewed from corner of Manchester/Kilmore streets

By 1905 the old wooden church was in a dilapidated condition and the Vestry was considering whether its replacement should be in stone, brick or concrete. Four nominations for the architect's position were received: Collins and Harman, F I Barlow, Cyril Mountfort, and S Hurst Seager.

After a ballot, Cyril Mountfort was appointed. He was the second son of Benjamin Mountfort and educated at Christ's College. He then trained with his father, who was the dominant force as an architect in Colonial Canterbury. By the 1880's he was carrying out designs for parish churches such as St Peter's, Springfield in 1884, which closely resemble those by his father.

Cyril continued his father's practice after his father's death in 1898, making additions to a number of churches begun by his father including Holy Trinity, Avonside and St Peter's, Riccarton. His two most important ecclesiastical designs were for St John's, Hororata and St Luke's. In addition, he succeeded his father as supervising architect for the Christchurch Cathedral and was responsible for its completion in 1904.

St John's Cathedral, Napier
St John's Cathedral, Napier

The design of St Luke's is closely related to two of Benjamin Mountfort's churches of the 1880's - The Church of the Good Shepherd, Phillipstown, begun 1884, and St John's Cathedral, Napier, 1886. From the exterior, faced with Halswell stone, St Luke's impresses by its massiveness and high unbroken line of its roof. Its style is Gothic Revival.

The interior red brick and Oamaru stone dressings are the same as used at Phillipstown and Napier. An impressive feature of the interior is the lofty, open timbered roof. The brick piers flanking the nave have been carried over from the design of the Napier Cathedral which was destroyed in the 1931 earthquake. St Luke's is on a smaller scale means they are smaller and appear pinched.

The Nave viewed from the organ loft
The Nave viewed from the organ loft

Cyril Mountfort employed many of the forms and motifs derived from his father's works but has not always been able to weld them into a distinctive and unified whole. The builders were Graham and Greig whose tender of 8,633 pounds had been accepted.

The foundation stone was laid by Bishop Julius on September 3 1908 and can be seen on the exterior West Wall with the old foundation stone immediately below.

The Bell Tower and west wall of St Lukes

The Bell Tower

The Bell Tower had been a temporary addition in 1909 and lasted until 1954. It was repaired and finally rebuilt in the 1960' s. Although the records do not say so, it is assumed that the sketch design had been made by Cyril Mountfort.

The Ascension

The painting of The Ascension above the High Altar is a greatly enlarged version of the original by the artist William Hole RSA, which hangs in the private chapel of the Earl of Home.

The Ascension
The Ascension

The original is only 14 by 10 inches, and the copy, also by Hole, is identical except that the angels' transparent wings are missing.

The Statue of Our Lady
Statue of Our Lady

Permission to have the copy done was granted by the then Earl at the request of St Luke's Vicar (1904 to 1913) William Walmsley Sedgwick.He had been his private chaplain prior to coming to Christchurch.

Our Lady

A lovely Statue of our Lady adjacent to the Side Chapel was carved in Italy from linden wood and given in memory of a devoted parishioner.

The Lady Chapel
The Lady Chapel


The Chapel also features a magnificent stained glass window depicting the Nativity. Other stained glass windows are all memorials of past parishioners as is the lectern.

The Vicarage

The window above Lady Chapel Altar
The window above Lady Chapel Altar

The pressing concern of the new parish in the 1860's was to build a residence for the Minister. Mr Coxhead, a builder (and member of Vestry), prepared plans and specifications. But the Vestry commissioned Speechly and Crisp to design a suitable 'Parsonage' (as it was called until 1895), in the Domestic Gothic Revival Style.

It has a timber frame, timber weather boards, brick chimneys and a corrugated iron roof. It was finally completed in September 1868 and until it was vacated by the then Vicar in 1994 was the oldest still occupied vicarage in New Zealand.

Historic vicarage next to St Lukes
The historic vicarage next to St Lukes (St Lukes Spirituality & Healing Centre)

Although it has been repaired and altered internally many times over the years, it is still very much as it was in 1868.

It is now the St Luke's Spirituality and Healing Centre.

Ian Lochhead from the School of Fine Arts at the University of Canterbury, states that it stands today as one of the best and least modified examples of the Ecclesiologically inspired vicarages in New Zealand. It has a "B" classification by the Historic Places Trust.

Want to know more?

More about the history of Saint Luke's can be found in the booklet entitled "The Church to the North of the River Avon ", copies of which are available at the rear of the church.