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Renovations for Stirling church

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The 19th century Church of Our Lady of the Rosary at Stirling East in the Adelaide Hills has undergone major renovations to overcome the ravages of time and also repair storm damage.

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Recent work has included the construction of a new entrance porch which features a carved design echoing the pointed arches of the building’s 13 stained glass windows. Two years ago a team of skilled stonemasons undertook the major task of replacing old and eroded stonework, reinstating the main stone cross on the top church gable and restoring the stone façade.

Chief stonemason for the project was Christian Frenzel, who honed his skills on European cathedrals. The porch was the work of experienced craftsman Craig Marafiotti.

Parish priest Fr Fred Farrugia re-introduced weekly Sunday Masses at Our Lady of the Rosary Church after his appointment to the Adelaide Hills parish six years ago.

Services had been discontinued 18 years prior to that due to a parish amalgamation.

A committee has cared for the church since then and is now responsible for taking bookings for marriage ceremonies of any Christian denomination. With the renovations complete, the new entrance is proving a perfect setting for wedding photographs.

The church dates back to 1881-82, when it was built and administered by the Mount Barker Catholic parish, becoming a focal point of parish life for the people at Stirling.

In the ebb and flow of time the church has seen a number of rebirths.

Earthquake damage in 1954 forced a prolonged closure of the church until Father Gavan Kennare established the Stirling parish in 1957. Cleaned and restored, Our Lady of the Rosary remained a Mass centre even when a larger church was built in Bridgewater.

After the amalgamation with Birdwood and Lobethal to form the Adelaide Hills parish in 1996, the future of the church came into serious question, especially after it was severely burnt in a vandalism attack in 1999.

The human spirit shone through, however, and the church was again authentically restored.

With the renovations completed, plans are slowly taking shape for a memorial garden to be developed in the shady grounds of the church.

Elisabeth Anderson is a member of the Adelaide Hills parish

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