The architecture of Monsignor John Hawes

Monsignor Hawes Geraldton

One of the most unique aspects of Australia’s mid-west region is the architectural legacy of Monsignor John Cyril Hawes. Built between 1919 and 1939, this legacy spans over 20 works and includes churches, cathedrals, chapels and hermitages.

Often described as masterpieces and some of the greatest architectural works in WA, Signor Hawes’ work can be seen throughout the towns of the mid-west including in Geraldton, Northampton, Mullewa, Morrawa, Perenjori Yalgoo and Carnarvon.

About Monsignor Hawes

Monsignor Hawes was a priest, architect and perhaps most of all a visionary. He came to Western Australia in 1915 after a fateful meeting with the Bishop of Geraldton in Rome. This lead to his recruitment as both outback missionary and architect of a new cathedral for Geraldton.

During his 24-years in Western Australia, Hawes created 29 buildings throughout the region. He battled heat and isolation in pursuit of his craft, all the while maintaining the highest dedication to his parish and the people.

Hawes left Western Australia in 1939 and continued his work in the Bahamas and other countries.

Monsignor Hawes Architecture in Western Australia

The most striking part of Hawe’s designs is how his creations seamlessly rise from their settings and naturally interact with their backgrounds.

The buildings are composed of local material and at times Hawe’s even made the bricks himself. In the case of the Church of Our Lady of Carmel built these incredible creations almost entirely on his own.

Sir Francis Xavier Cathedral in Geraldton is considered Hawe’s greatest work. The cathedral took 23 years to complete and was fraught with many difficulties including lack of funds and hostility from the new Bishop of Geraldton. The Cathedral was built from stone from Chapman Valley and has many influences from the churches of southern Europe including the striped interior.

The incredible interior of Sir Francis Xavier Cathedral. Image: Martin Kraft (

Monsignor Hawes Mullewa

The town of Mullewa has the highest number of works by Hawes, including the Church of Our Lady of Carmel. The church is cited as his most original and personal work. The church is designed in a Romanesque style and influenced by the churches of southern Europe and California. Also built by Hawes in Mullewa is the Holly Apostles of St Peter and St Paul as well as the Priest House which is located next to the  Church and is now a museum.

John Hawes Morrawa

The entrance to the Priesthouse Museum in Morrawa. Image West Australian Tourism

Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, in Mullewa

Image: West Australian Tourism

Monsignor Hawes Yalgoo

The Dominican Chapel of St Hyacinth in Yalgoo was built in 1920, shortly after Hawes arrived in Western Australia. Hawes designed the chapel for the Dominican Sisters who lived in town. Hawes travelled on horseback between Mullewa and Yalgoo to help with the construction of the chapel and in a letter to a friend wrote about being overwhelmed by the heat and isolation of the town.

Monsignor Heritage Centre

The heritage centre is located in Geraldton and features an excellent exhibition on Hawes’ life and work. It’s well worth spending a few hours to examine his work as well as discover the exceptional man in more detail. Don’t miss the chance to take a tour of the adjacent St Francis Xavier Cathedral.

The centre is located on 56 Cathedral Avenue, Geraldton.

Monsignor Hawes Trail

The Monsignor Hawes Trail is a three-day itinerary that takes in Hawes architecture. The trail starts in New Norcia and weaves its way through the mid-west region to Geraldton.

See the trail details here.

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Monsignor Hawes


  1. […] If you’ve travelled around the mid-west, chances are you’ve come across the architecture of Monsignor Hawes. His finest work is probably the St Francis Xavier Cathedral on Cathedral Street in Geraldton’s town centre. The church really is remarkable and unique, especially the interior with the striped walls. There’s also an adjacent museum on Hawes’ incredible work. See more on Monsignor Hawes’ work in this article here.  […]

  2. Jenelle says:

    I’ve never been to Geraldton, so I’ve not seen it. Man, that church is so different, the inside as well!
    xx Jenelle |

  3. Andy says:

    Fascinating Nina. I thought I knew the west pretty well although I’ve never heard of Monsignor John Hawes. I love history and old buildings so will have to have a look when I’m back. Actually I haven’t explored the region inland from Geraldton, so this is a good reason to do so!

    The new site looks great too 🙂

    • Nina B says:

      I’ve only just come across Hawe’s architecture and can’t believe I haven’t heard of him sooner. His architecture is stunning and well worth a trip to the mid-west, even better if you can combine it with wildflower season. Thanks for checking out the new site.

  4. […] the main road is the impressive St Marys Church built by renowned priest and architect Monsignor Hawes whose churches throughout the midwest are one of WA’s architectural […]

  5. […] Nina from West Australian Explorer […]

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