Magnificent Mosaic

Down the rabbit hole

It often takes someone else to initiate a spoken question to which an answer has never been sought even though the question has silently lurked in the deep recesses of the mind over a long time, “What is the mural on the wall made of”. 1

“Curiouser and curiouser,”  like Alice in Wonderland a mini investigation ensured. 2

Picture: Connee-Colleen © 2008, ‘Magnificent Mosaic, Modern Masterpiece’, Uniting Church, Rutledge Street, Queanbeyan. 3

If not on the outside, religion has always been an opportunity for people to place something creative of themselves inside the buildings and the area the congregation faces is sometimes a feature wall, decorated with sculpture, paintings or stained glass windows.

The  Uniting Church, Queanbeyan, opened in 1994,4 is no exception.

Tapestry tile

The success of the Mosaic Art Work is evident when seen from a distance and the mural ‘feels’ like it could be tapestry; this is partly because of the colour and design, which seem to merge and also because of the unusual large shapes used in portion of the mural, which don’t read as regular bathroom tiles, but on close inspection and a ‘real feel’ proves that they are real tiles – tiles  that were not destined for the bathroom.

As part of the design a wooden cross extends out and hovers just above the layer of tiles marking the town and extends up into the layer’s of tiles depicting the mountains – this adds depth and illusion as well as uniting the tiles to the timber furnishings and surrounds.

Hills alive

It was at a general meeting of the Queanbeyan Uniting Church congregation that a decision to proceed with a new building was made and the concept to include a special feature that not only implied “this is a church”, but said, “this is a Church in Queanbeyan” was also agreed to. 5

The congregation talked long and hard about the special and uniqueness of Queanbeyan until Merran Toone, inspired by the view from her kitchen window said, “the hills frame our community on all sides”. 6

Everyone felt the same and agreed to use the hills as a theme and wondered if a mosaic could be made from a photo of the Queanbeyan hills surrounding the valley. Many photos were taken and considered but it was Geoff McCubbin’s photo that got the nod. 7

Pic of Pics

Geoff McCubbin’s photo taken from Bungendore Hill in 1990 looking South West across Queanbeyan over the top of Jerrabomberra Mountain to the ranges beyond, is displayed in the Uniting Church foyer and is of historic interest because the view recorded in the photo, which inspired the mural, is now hidden by natural growth and man made development. 8

In some of the oldest places of worship in the world, the workers and perhaps some unbelievers painted and carved and decorated the timber and stone detail with their own perception of reality and imagination. 9


The modern Uniting Church and the beautiful Mosaic wall mural inside were jointly created by the congregation and the architect, Bryan Dowling. A computer outline of the photo was made and the architect Bryan Dowling’s task then was to develop the design detail and source the tiles from Melbourne for the project. 10

Some members of the congregation were expecting the tiles to have more muted tones  but the actual  colour of the tiles were stronger and it took time to adjust to the final image. 11

Master tilers Terry Short and Craig Fitzsimons’ workmanship made this magnificent, modern, multi-layered, mosaic-mural, a design reality that meshes all elements of the project together. 12

Mark or Luke?

Places of worship were and still are art works, created as edifices to deity as examples of the faith, creativity, work ethic and patronage that achieved the final result: Five scriptures from the Bible: Psalm 121, Luke 6:12, Luke 19:41, Mark 16:6 and Isaiah 40:3, were selected to interpret the mosaic – another scripture added by the most recent and present Pastor, Reverend Kevin Dilks, Isaiah 52:9 which encapsulates some of humanities most sublime desires which cross all boundaries:

“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet

of those who bring good news,

who proclaim peace,

who bring good tidings,

who proclaim salvation”. 13

Historic site

Rev W Lightbody orgaqnised the first Methodists in this area in the 1840s. In our town it is said they met under an old tree on the site set aside to built their church – the historic old church was built in 1859 for £270. It has always been a special place because the site is in the centre of Queanbeyan. It was after the Methodists combined with the Uniting Church that the decision to built the new modern Uniting Church on the large historic site, was made. The 1859 church, and the extensions that followed, are still used for worship each Sunday by the Queanbeyan Samoan congregation. 14


Footnotes / Resources

1. The Queanbeyan Uniting Church, corner of Crawford and Rutledge Streets, Queanbeyan, is a multi-use facility and can be hired for some activities; the Queanbeyan Hospital Auxiliary hire it for their Annual General Meeting (AGM) and member Nancy Monk who oversees the hospital heritage collection asked the question.
2. Lewis Carroll. Alice in Wonderland. Biddlington, Priory Books. p.  8.
3. Connee-Colleen, © photo: “Magnificent Mosaic, 2008″.
4. (i) Uniting Church. Queanbeyan Uniting Church Opening Program – Meditation on the Mosaic. Queanbeyan Uniting Church, 26 March, 1994. (ii) The Queanbeyan Age, Uniting Church opening, 1994.
5. Connee-Colleen,Interview: Geoff McCubbin’s: Recollections of the project,” June, 2008.
6. Ibid.
7. Ibid.

8. Geoff McCubbin, © photo, “Queanbeyan Valley View  from Bungendore Hill, 1990″. A copy of the photo is displayed in Queanbeyan Uniting Church, foyer.
9. Art books on Gothic Cathedrals display samples of this type of art work.
10. (i) Connee-Colleen, Queanbeyan Outlook (154): Magnificent mosaic”,  The Queanbeyan Age, August 22, 2008, p. 25. (ii) Bryan Dowling was the architect for Queanbeyan’s Waterford Apartments, corner of Atkinson and Waniassa Streets, Queanbeyan.
11. Connee-Colleen. Interview, 2008.
12. Ibid
13. Ibid
14. (i) Lea-Scarlett, Erol. Queanbeyan District & People. Queanbeyan Municipal Council, 1968, p. 50. (ii) Golden Age, Queanbeyan, 1861. (iii) Geoff McCubbin, “Queanbeyan Uniting Church – A brief history,” Queanbeyan Uniting Church (pamphlet) 1994.

All content on Before Canberra Copyright © Connee-Colleen unless otherwise noted – apologies extended if inadvertently a copyright (including moral right) has not been acknowledged – please inform so this can be rectified.

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