Adelaide, the city of churches

Written by: Cameron Ward

Published: 11/15/2019

Reading time: 3 mins

If Adelaide is the City of Churches, there must be hundreds of churches there right? Well, perhaps not! 

Amongst Adelaide’s seemingly endless list of nicknames you’ll find City of Churches. With famous religious cities across the world, such as Catholicism in Vatican City, Islam in Mecca, Buddhism in Lhasa and Mormonism in Salt Lake City, it seems laughable that Adelaide, South Australia, would call itself a city of churches. But, dive a little deeper, and the nickname reflects the small city’s societal pillar of religious tolerance.

Founded in 1836, Adelaide was the first Australian city to be settled by free men, not by penal colonies. One of the founding pillars of the city was that of religious tolerance and Adelaide quickly became a prime example of religious freedom during its early days. It is for this reason Adelaide became known as the City of Churches. Not because there was a significant number of churches, but because there were many churches represented within Adelaide’s population.

  • Catholicism in Adelaide

    Australia’s oldest cathedral is in the heart of Adelaide city. As European settlers brought Roman Catholicism with them, they quickly needed churches to service the community. Just twenty years after first settlement, the extravagant St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral was built. Named after the patron saint of Australia, the church is the Catholic hear of Adelaide.

    The first Catholic bishop arrived in Adelaide in 1844. A year later, he opened the city’s first church, St Patrick’s. Today, both St Francis Xavier’s and St Patrick’s host mass for the Catholic and Christian community of Adelaide. St Patrick’s has even expanded its offerings to host mass in Portuguese and Croatian.

  • Islam in Adelaide

    Islam is said to have come to Adelaide with cameleers arriving from Afghanistan, Baluchistan and Pakistan (then northwest India). The Adelaide Mosque is Australia’s oldest surviving mosque. Built in 1888, it was designed to meet the spiritual needs of cameleers and traders arriving in Adelaide to work in South Australia.

    However, as Adelaide’s Muslim population aged and reduced in size in the late 19th century, the mosque fell into disrepair. As the mosque continued to be neglected, and use began to dry up, a new breath of life swept through. Following WWII an influx of Muslim immigrants arrived in Adelaide, and they needed somewhere to worship. Today, the mosque is used for services daily, and Adelaide’s Islamic population keeps it in its former state of glory.

  • Judaism in Adelaide

    The first Jewish settlers to Adelaide were Mr and Mrs Phillip Lee. However, they were not the first Jewish influence in Adelaide when they arrived in 1836. Jewish man Jacob Montefiore was one of eleven commissioners appointed to set up South Australia as a free colony.

    Despite the early arrival of Jewish families to Adelaide, the city’s first synagogue was not erected until 1871. Since then the Jewish population in Adelaide has fluctuated up and down, with the current population sitting at approximately 1000 individuals. There are now two synagogues in Adelaide servicing the Jewish community, one orthodox and one progressive.

Today Adelaideans represent over 30 different religions. The city continues to strive itself on acceptance and tolerance for all people and will be very happy to welcome you on your visit!

Related article: The History and Architecture of Trinity Church

Cameron Ward
Cameron Ward
Managing Director at Sightseeing Tours Australia

Cameron Ward turned his travel passion into a thriving Australian tourism business. Before he co-founded his own business, Sightseeing Tours Australia, he was enjoying being a Melbourne tour guide. Even now, Cameron delights in helping visitors from all around the world get the most out of their incredible Australian trip. You’ll see Cameron leading tours or writing about his favourite Australian places where he shares his local insights.