The Catholic Apostolic Church in Edinburgh was the first of a series of major commissions in the 1870s that were to transform Robert Rowand Anderson's career. The Catholic Apostolic Church was an important step in Anderson's career and it remained the most ambitious of his churches.
Anderson left the office of George Gilbert Scott in 1859 and set up his own practice in Edinburgh in 1860. During the 1860s his main work was small churches in the 'first pointed' style that is characteristic of Scott's former assistants. By 1880 (after the Catholic Apostolic Church) his practice was designing the most prestigious public and private buildings in Scotland: the University of Edinburgh Medical School and the McEwan Hall, The Scottish National Portrait Gallery, and Mount Stuart for the Marquess of Bute. These buildings demonstrate two notable qualities in Anderson's work: his ability to revive any of a variety of historical styles intelligently and his preference for massive, imposing forms. Anderson had a detailed knowledge of French architecture, had been on study tours in France and Italy and had produced a book of measured drawings, Examples of the Municipal, Commercial and Street Architecture of France and Italy.
Mural painting played a significant part in Anderson's work; important decorative schemes have survived at the McEwan Hall, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, St James's, Inverleith Row, Edinburgh, and, of course, Mansfield Place Church.