Chapel history

Built in 1871 by the Good Shepherd Sisters, the Chapel has enormous cultural and historic significance for Victoria.

In 1863, four Good Shepherd Sisters sailed from France to Melbourne to provide support and safe housing for women and girls experiencing hardship and exclusion.

The Sisters found a suitable site in Abbotsford to build a self-sufficient community, where they could provide shelter, education and spiritual support for young girls and women. The Abbotsford Convent was officially opened on 25 August 1863 and the Good Shepherd community began to grow. 

Following the death of Mother Mary of Saint Joseph Doyle in 1869, the foundress of Good Shepherd in Australia, a group of lay supporters of the Convent raised money amongst themselves for a marble tablet to honour her memory. They raised more money than expected and the idea of a mortuary chapel was suggested.

What was really needed was a church to accommodate the large community of Sisters and all the women and girls living at the Convent. The Bishop and Catholic community raised further funds to build a church, which would serve as a memorial to Mother Mary of Saint Joseph and the other Sisters who had died.

Originally known as the Church of the Immaculate Conception, the Chapel was designed by Mr Thomas A Kelly, modelled on the mother house of the Good Shepherd Sisters in Angers, France. The foundation stone was laid in 1870 and the building was officially opened on 30 April 1871. It is the second oldest building in the Abbotsford Convent precinct. Among convent chapels, it is distinguished by its age, free standing design and bluestone construction.

The Chapel closed in 2010 for extensive renovations, and reopened in 2012. The Sisters wanted to ensure the Chapel could continue to connect with and serve the local community, and the restorations were done with this in mind. The Chapel’s remaining original features were lovingly restored, and local materials were used in all aspects of the restoration wherever possible. 

The Good Shepherd Chapel restoration project has won the following awards:

  • 2013 National - Australian Institute of Architects Awards – Heritage Award Restoration & New Works
  • 2013 Victorian - Australian Institute of Architects Awards – Heritage Award  Restoration & New Works 
  • 2013 WAF (World Architecture Festival) - Shortlisting Heritage Award 2012 Melbourne Design Award – Interior Design Award – Public or Institutional 

Today, the Chapel still belongs to the Good Shepherd Sisters and is managed by Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand. It continues to provide a peaceful, contemplative space for everyone in the community to enjoy.