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First Church of Otago

With its breathtaking design and stained-glass windows, Dunedin’s most prominent church is often referred to as New Zealand’s finest 19th-century building.

Stroll through the grounds of the First Church of Otago and admire the building’s turrets, ornate façade and towering spire. Step inside to see the spectacular wooden ceiling lit up by the glow from a large rose-shaped stained-glass window. 

Set within a tranquil grassy parkland, the First Church of Otago was designed by Scottish architect Robert Lawson in 1862. The first stone was laid by Thomas Burns, the city’s founder, 6 years later. Such was the desire of the provincial government to have the church in this location, they lowered the ground by 40 feet (12 meters) to accommodate its construction. 

Walk through the grounds and admire the many turrets of the apse. These are best seen from behind the church. Back by the entrance, be sure to stop and admire the ornate Gothic façade and the stunning rose-shaped window. From all sides you will see the magnificent needle-like tower, which stands 196 feet (60 meters) high.

Make your way into the church and you will notice that the entrance holds two old lamps. These are original streetlights from the city of Edinburgh and are a reminder of the relationship between New Zealand and Scotland.

Once inside, take in the church’s arched wooden ceiling, as well as the many hanging flags and lanterns. You will see some more traditional elements such as religious paintings and stone sculptures. Be sure to leave yourself plenty of time to view the many elegant stained-glass windows. Check out the brightly colored war memorial window and its intricate artwork that pays tribute to local soldiers. 

The First Church of Otago is just 328 feet (100 meters) from the center of Dunedin. It is free to enter and open all week. Regular services and events take place at this church, so check the church’s website to find out what’s on during your visit.


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