Welcome to Life Images by Jill

Welcome to Life Images by Jill.........Stepping into the light and bringing together the images and stories of our world.
I am a photographer, writer and multi-media artist. Through my blog I am
seeking to preserve images and memories of the beautiful world in which we live and the people in it.



Monday, 12 September 2016

Sacred Heart Church, Beagle Bay, Western Australia

I love small country churches. There is something so special about them. You can feel the community's heart especially when they have a long history and the community have been involved in the building of the church.  Whatever your religion or belief, places of worship are quiet sanctuaries to sit and feel peace settling over you. 

On our recent trip to the Kimberley we went camping up along the Dampier Peninsular north of Broome with local friends. On the way they took us to visit the Sacred Heart Church at Beagle Bay, 170 kilometres north of Broome via the dirt Cape Leveque Road. We had never visited this church before, so I was very glad we were able to take this short side trip on our way north.

Beagle Bay is the traditional home of the aboriginal Nyul Nyul people, who call the area Ngarlun Burr, Place Surrounded by Springs. 

European connection to Beagle Bay began in 1838 when Her Majesty's ship, "The Beagle" was used to make a survey of the north west coast of Australia. JC Wickham, the surveyor, named the bay Beagle Bay.

Central to the Beagle Bay community is the heritage listed Sacred Heart Church.  Beautifully decorated inside with pearl shells, the church is an amazing fusion of traditional aboriginal and Christian symbols, local materials and European techniques.

The first church in Beagle Bay was built by French Trappist Monks from bush timber, paperbark and iron sheets.  In 1917 the German Pallottine Missionaries, brothers and local people, under the guidance of Father Thomas Bachmair, began to build the present church, modelled on a photograph of a German village church.  Officially opened on 15 August 1918, Fr Bachmair died two weeks later from septicemia. 

The missionaries experimented with different clay mixtures to achieve the correct proportions of white clay and black mud to make the 60,000 bricks for the church and 30,000 bricks for the bell tower.  They were unable to obtain cement, so lime for the mortar and plastering was extracted from seashells gathered from the beach in bullock carts and fired in the kiln. 

Fr. Droste worked with a team of local women to decorate the inside of the church. The main altar is decorated with mother-of-pearl and coloured shells embedded into the plaster. Cowrie shells were used to frame the tabernacle. Shells are used for decoration throughout the church, along the alter rail, around the window frames and along the central isle. The result truly is unique and beautiful and the detail and crafting is exquisite.

The original ceiling over the sanctuary was constructed from strips of mangrove wood plastered with lime.  The plaster was painted dark blue and inlaid with mother-of-pearl shells to represent the stars. Unfortunately white ants attacked this ceiling and it eventually collapsed. The ceiling was replaced with flattened kerosene tins. 

There are three bells in the twelve metre bell tower. The smallest is the original French bell which came with the French Trappist Monks. The other two bells were a gift from a German parish.  

Cyclones, white ants, heat and damp have taken their toll on the church. Over recent years preservation work has been carried out including rebuilding the bell tower which collapsed in 2001. 

The French Trappist Monks came to Beagle Bay in 1890. In 1900 the monks left their Australian missions and were replaced at Beagle Bay by Pallottine Missionaries from Germany.  The German missionaries were placed under internment at Beagle Bay during World War 1. In 1907 the Sisters of St John of God arrived from Ireland. They dedicated themselves to teaching and caring for the Stolen Generation children brought to Beagle Bay under government orders. 

The Beagle Bay community became independent from the Church in 1970 and became self-governing, however the Sacred Heart Church remains the centre of the Dampier Peninsula Parish.

The Sacred Heart Church is not a museum, but you are able to visit. Please leave a donation to help them with their ongoing work. 

Beagle Bay Church and school

 Where is it:  Beagle Bay is on the Dampier Peninsula, north west Western Australia, 170 kms north Broome via the dirt Cape Leveque Road. 4WD recommended. You can see a view of the road below. Please reduce tyre pressures and drive to the conditions. Allow 5-6 hours return. 

The Cape Leveque Road - reduce your tyre pressures and drive to the conditions.

Two more churches you might like to visit with me:

Thank you so much for stopping by. I hope you have enjoyed this little look at the Sacred Heart Church at Beagle Bay. Do you have a favourite country church? 

 I value your comments and look forward to hearing from you. I will try to visit your blogs in return. Have a wonderful week.

I am linking up to the link-ups below. Please click on the links to see fabulous contributions from around the world - virtual touring at its best!


Seen at Beagle Bay
Mosaic Monday 
Life Thru the Lens 

Lifestyle Fifty Monday Linkup 
Our World Tuesday

Through My Lens 
Wednesday Around the World at Communal Global
Worth Casing Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday

The Weekly Postcard


  1. That altar is beautiful. I bet the original ceiling was just as wonderful too.

    1. It would have been amazing to see the ceiling.

  2. What a lovely church. Great colors and artwork!

  3. What a beautiful church. You really are compiling a wonderful social and travel resource of WA.

  4. Fabulous church. We did go as far as Quandong on the Dampier Peninsula on a day trip without our caravan and we found the roads very rough in places. I would have like to go further but time did not allow. The shell decorated altar is very unique and pretty.

    1. Yes we would have loved to have gone right up to the tip of the peninsula, but our friends had to get back to Broome unfortunately. Next time. I wouldn't take a caravan up there.

  5. This is a lovely church. I'd love to be able to spend time looking at all the detail there.
    Thank you for linkingu p at http://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2016/09/los-viejos.html#overview, Jill

  6. I love this small church! And that red sand...so Australia!!

    1. I love red dirt! Except when it filters all through your car and things.

  7. Hi Jill, please don't faint..it really is me, finally back into the slow yet steady feel of things once again. I love your churches and I also enjoy visiting them, learning their history and if possible being able to step inside. There is something very inspiring about them, especially the older ones...so much richness in history. Hugs your way~

    1. Lovely to hear from you Mary and that you are making your way back. I love going to these old churches. So much history, beauty, and community spirit. Take care my friend. hugs.

  8. A beautiful chapel!

  9. Such a Moroccan influence on the architecture of the church. I would have never guessed from the outside. That is one reason I love little country churches as well, you never know the treasures you'll find inside of them.

    Lisa @ LTTL

    1. there is usually something special inside these country churches. Yes, you are right, some Moroccan influences there. Amazing they designed it from a photo.


I hope you have enjoyed your visit to my blog. Thank you for stopping by and for taking the time to comment. I read and very much appreciate every comment and love hearing from you. I will try to visit your blogs in return.