The foundation stone was laid for the church on 18 December 1932 and the opening ceremony held on 2 July 1933. It was designed by Hawes at a time when Hawes’s architecture was being championed by Bishop O ’Collins. The plans reflect the same composition as his Church of St Mary the Virgin on Long Island in 1910 although this one is larger.
At this time Morawa was a relatively busy trading centre of about 1000 people in the developing north eastern wheat belt. When you enter the Church at Morawa the soft light will reveal a simple but beautifully coloured interior. What you might feel in this place is the result of John Hawes’s sensitivity and genius as an architect. He was always aware of the environment surrounding his buildings and adapted the style and materials he used to suit the climate and landscape. The thick walls made from local stone the wide overhanging eaves and the shuttered windows keep the heat at bay and provide an inviting sanctuary.
The design o the church is modelled, not on the type o English ecclesiastical architecture, incomparable as this is in its own northern setting, but on a type more suited to this southern hemisphere —that o sunny Italy. Clergy and people prefer the ‘hall’ type o church design; that is to say, a wide area, unobstructed by pillars. The width involves necessarily a comparative lowness o the proportions ….The ancient 13th century churches of Tuscany, in and around Sienna, have been my inspiration or my design of the Church of the Holy Cross at Morawa … The total cost o the Church was £1300; rather more than first expected but the unforseen depth of the foundations (just on our feet)and the distance,12 miles, the stone had to be carted instead o from a place only two miles away as first expected, added a great deal to the cost.
John Hawes’s attention was demanded on many architectural projects at this time but he still managed to oversee and help with the building works on the Church and once the church was completed Hawes built a tiny presbytery nearby for the visiting parish priest to sleep in overnight. Hawes rode his bicycle from Mullewa to Morawa district and used it as a bush camp.
The Priest’s cell as we call it now is the smallest Priest’s cell in the southern hemisphere. Being far too small and lacking in facilities for a permanent parish priest to live in the cell is now just a curiosity.
It has been said that the cell is indicative o Hawes’ contentment with small spaces and limited domestic acilities which was part of his romantic Franciscan temperament.
Morawa’s population boomed in the 1960s due to the iron ore mining industry and the small church was unable to accommodate all of its new parishioners. In 1966 the church was enlarged and restored by the architect Reginald Summerhayes in a manner that respected its 1933 style and materials. The stone used for the new sanctuary sacristies and transepts came from the original quarry.
The changes made to the Church of the Holy Cross show us that heritage can evolve and be conserved in its original spirit.
The legacy that John Hawes has left us is still relevant to our need to consider our environment and to evolve with it. We must all be aware of the richness and the diversity that surrounds us. The Australian outback is a harsh and fragile plain and rich cultural and natural environment. We need to live in harmony with it. This what John Hawes knew.
Holy Cross Church - Morawa