MEET AND GREET: Father Stephen Bliss will lead tours at St Mary's Church this weekend.
MEET AND GREET: Father Stephen Bliss will lead tours at St Mary's Church this weekend. Cordell Richardson

Ipswich icon opens doors to celebrate festival

IT IS one of Ipswich's most photographed churches, and for four days this weekend the stunning St Mary's will be even more of a focal point as it towers over the city's annual cultural celebrations.

Built of Helidon Sandstone, the 115-year-old church is as stunning inside as it is out; a fact that parish priest Father Stephen Bliss hopes to convey this weekend when he and a small group of church volunteers host guided tours as part of the Ipswich Festival.

Fr Bliss said the tour would take in the altars - themselves more than a century old - as well as a closer look at the stained glass windows, and the choir loft.

He encouraged visitors to bring their cameras to get some rare images of the stained glass windows, which he said told a story of the city.

"I hope people will realise the significant place St Mary's has in Ipswich,” he said.

"It is an icon of the city, and an icon of a higher power and the hard work of our forebears in establishing and maintaining it.

"We are really aiming to tell a story. That marble from the altars is just beautiful. We want people to get a feel for the grandeur of the church.”

Fr Bliss is a relative newcomer to Ipswich, having taken on the role of Parish Priest at St Mary's just over a year ago.

He said he had quickly grown to love the city and its people.

"Unfortunately we have a lot of funerals here, but the thing I have taken from that is all the stories of people who have lived here and their involvement in Ipswich,” he said.

"It shows you just how strong the community is here.”

Tours of the Iconic St Mary's Church will be held Sunday, April 14, 11am; 12pm; 1pm and 2pm.