To be technical, a cathedral is the principal church of a diocese, containing the Bishop’s Throne. And this is indeed the smallest one there is out there.

But that’s not what makes the Quetta Memorial Cathedral on Thursday Island worth seeing.

On the night of February 28, 1890, the British mail and passenger ship SS Quetta hit an uncharted rock in the Adolphus Channel off Albany Island and sank with the loss of 133 lives. The ship was carrying 300 passengers to Britain, many of them scions of colonial Queensland society, and most of the Europeans on board were drowned. It was among Australia’s worst maritime disasters. The idea of a memorial church was born soon after.

By 1901 the cathedral had become a place of pilgrimage containing fascinating relics from the Quetta, stained glass windows honouring the deceased passengers, and rare Indigenous artworks depicting Biblical scenes. It was and is a quintessential Torres Strait landmark, acquiring a mystique associated with its dramatic origins, longevity and tropical location. The Bishop’s House is regarded by Thursday Islanders as a holy place. When it comes to soaking up history, this is a place to do it. Just stand still and listen.

Where // On Douglas St, Thursday Island, 40km north of the tip of Cape York Peninsula in the Torres Strait. (07) 4069 0700, www.tsra.gov.au

Did you know? // If you head around 5km west of the northern tip of Cape York to the Punsand Bay Camping Resort, you can watch the sun rise and set over two different seas – the Coral and the Arafura.

 

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