In 1894, a small group of Catholic nuns, known as the Sisters of Mercy, arrived at Lyttelton from the West Coast of the South Island. It had been deemed safer to for them to travel by sea as bad weather could have made the cross country journey unsafe and unpredictable. They were led by Mother Mary Bernard.
They wasted no time setting up a convent and a ladies day college at 244 Colombo Street, naming the facility St Mary’s Parish School. It opened on 20th August 1894. They taught Latin, French, Music and Needlework amongst the other normal school subjects. Today, this school continues as St Mary’s School, Marian College and Villa Maria.
In 1910, the St Mary’s Convent Chapel was built on site, designed by Alfred and Edward Lutterell. Made from Halswell and Oamaru stone, it was a chapel to be used by the Sisters. It proved to be quite a sanctuary with its welcoming entrance porch, choir loft, nave and fine stained glassed windows.
By the time the Christchurch City Council purchased the St Mary’s Convent Chapel in 1996, it was the only remaining structure of the convent left. It was renamed to the Rose Historic Chapel after its western facing Rose Wheel Window. The Council have since the year 2000 hired the Chapel out for weddings and other functions.
Badly damaged by the 2011 earthquakes, repairs are currently underway. It is expected to be opened sometime in mid 2017.
*Image courtesy of Annette Bulovic*