On the 14th of September, 1928, Fortitude Valley was witness to one of the most impressive ceremonies in Brisbane's history. Thirty-five thousand of the city's Catholic population had turned out to watch Cardinal Caretti, papal legate to Australia, lay the foundation stone of the new Holy Name Cathedral. Amongst the other dignitaries: Lord Mayor William Jolly, dozens of bishops from around the world, and, watching over it all, the Archbishop of Brisbane, James Duhig. For him, the Cathedral would be the crowning achievement of his episcopate, and the culmination of a building program that had defined him. Able to house over four thousand worshippers, Holy Name was to be the largest church of any kind in the Southern hemisphere, and the largest ecclesiastical building attempted in over four centuries.
By 1935, Duhig's dream lay in ruins. Investments in Western Queensland oil wells had been ruined by the Great Depression, and without any funds, the cathedral site remained empty for decades until eventually being sold to property developers in the 1980s. Dogged by lawsuits from unpaid architects, Duhig died in 1965, taking his domed dream with him.
But what if it hadn't ended up like that? What if better investment decisions had meant that construction on the Cathedral could go ahead? What if, like the Harbour Bridge in Sydney, the construction of the Holy Name Cathedral became a beacon of hope, and employment, during the tough times of the Depression? This isn't the story of a different world: no borders have changed, no new wars won and lost, the fates of millions have not changed. This is the story of one town, one building, and one man's dream.