The foundation stone for the church was laid on February 6th 1910, and the church was blessed and opened by the late Archbishop Redwood on October 1st 1911.
With its twin towers and striking cupola of copper the basilica has been for 70 years a very significant feature of the Timaru skyline. Designed by F W Petre the building is among the most noteworthy examples of ecclesiastical architecture in the country. The interior and exterior show both a pleasing blend of Roman and Byzantine architecture with touches of Art Nouveau decoration. Two small domes surmount the towers that flank the façade and a rear dome caps a carillon tower.
Of particular beauty is the semi-circular colonnade of 13 graceful Corinthian columns representing St Paul and the Twelve Apostles. The floor of the sanctuary is decorated with mosaic tiles while the windows are adorned with attractive stained glass.
Historically the basilica has been a monument to the faith and vision of the Catholic community in South Canterbury. As a townscape feature it is a major element of Timaru with a striking landmark quality.
Image by Melanie Lovell-Smith.