With more than 3,000 square feet of murals and frescos on its ceiling and walls, Kingston’s Holy Trinity Cathedral is, undoubtedly, the most beautiful church in Jamaica and one of the most beautiful in the Caribbean. It covers 12,600 square feet.
Like a beacon, its 85′ copper dome guides the faithful to its doors. Holy Trinity Cathedral was built in 1911 to replace the original Roman Catholic church that was constructed in 1811 and destroyed by earthquake in 1907.
The new building, of Byzantine architecture, was commissioned in 1908 by the Catholic community and U.S. Bishop John Collins. It was designed and constructed by Walker-Fyche, a Canadian company at a cost of US$150,000. The artwork was created by Jesuit Lay Brother Francis Schroen. It is believed to be one of the largest of his work.
Sadly, the murals were painted over in the 1970s either because they had deteriorated over the years and there were no funds to restore them, or in response to liturgical trends following Vatican II, they were considered a distraction.
Whatever the explanation, the cathedral was in serious disrepair. When restoration began in 2008, it was discovered that the murals had been buried under ten coats of grey paint. Many of the stained glass windows that had been destroyed by hurricane in 1951 had not been replaced, the baldachin had been removed, the ceiling and pews were infested with termites, and the organ – only five of its kind exist in the Caribbean — did not work.
Restoration of Holy Trinity Cathedral begun under the leadership of master restorer Professor Antonio Sanchez-Barriga Fernandez of Spain and a team that included 32 young people from the community. The painstaking work continues.
The day I visited, the doors were closed so I walked the grounds taking photos of the exterior. I had started back to the car when someone called and offered to let me in. I gasped when I saw the interior. Though I had seen photos, they didn’t prepare me for the remarkable tableau in front of me. Except for the floor and pews, every surface was decorated. I didn’t know where to start and fumbled the camera several times. My ‘guide,’ one of the trainees, heard my running comments on the beauty of the artwork and invited me to Mass that Sunday so that I could see the cathedral when it is decorated and illuminated. I promised to return.
The ceiling and most of the walls have been restored. New stained glass panels featuring Catholic saints and icons like Saint Josephine Bakhita of the Sudan, Saint Martin de Porres of Peru and Pierre Toussaint, a Haitian slave who purchased his freedom and went on to contribute significantly to raising funds for the Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, have been installed.
As I was preparing to leave, the current restorer arrived and offered to show me one of the walls that was being worked on. Several layers of paint were still left to be removed.
Holy Trinity Cathedral has welcomed the Pope and is the venue for many official services and funerals. In 2000, the Jamaican Government named Holy Trinity to the register of historic places.
Holy Trinity Cathedral
1 George Headley Drive at North Street
Sunday Mass: 8:30 a.m.
This is my submission to this week’s Budget Travelers Sandbox Travel Photo Thursday series. Be sure to check out other photo and story entries on their website.
44 comments on “The Awesome Splendor of Kingston’s Holy Trinity Cathedral”
Nice place – I like the Toussaint stained glass the best. I’m assuming this is a catholic cathedral – Are Jamaicans primarily catholic?
Wow! I love churches, they have such a history and this one is fantastic. I laughed at your ‘fumbled with the camera’ as I have had similar moments when I was so taken, or awestruck that I seemed to lose control of my ability to aim and shoot. I love those moments and you’ve conveyed it well. . .the photos make me feel like I was right there with you. (Wish I had been!)
What a stunning church – the stained glass is incredible! Painting over murals is such a sad thing – I’m glad to hear the process of restoring the artwork is under way. Have you been to the mass yet?
Marcia – what a truly lovely church and Lady Luck seemed to have been on your side that day. Great that you were able to see the inside (I understand why you gasped) and the restoration work in progress. It’s always mind boggling to me how little thought goes into painting over works of art. At least it’s being restored.
Although I’m not religious I do love visiting churches! They are usually very beautiful and have a ton of history associated with them.
The stained glass windows and dome ceiling are quite beautiful! I also like seeing the restoration detail. It’s wonderful that these churches are maintained so well.
That’s beautiful restoration work, and you did such a good job with the interior–particularly the dome. I never seem to be able to capture interiors of cathedrals and basilicas.
Thanks, Vera. I wish I had some tips to share but this time I just put it on automatic. I didn’t want to have to worry about messing up the shots.
They are doing quite a thorough job with the restoration, I can’t wait to return.
It does take a lot of work to maintain — and a whole team of people.
I agree, the stained glass and the dome are beautiful.
Isn’t that something, Debbie? I’m not either but I love churches, love the architecture and the art.
I love visiting churches and cathedrals no matter where we go because there’s so much history to them and it almost feel like a museum. The details of the dome and all that stained glass decor are beautiful. Great job with the pictures. How wonderful that they are able to restore most of the walls.
The work is absolutely beautiful, i can’t imagine what they were thinking and why there was no public discussion. Like you, I’m happy that they’re restoring it, Leigh, and glad that I was able to see it.
Hahaha, I haven’t yet, Lisa. I’d really love to see it and see the congregation at worship.
I felt like a little klutz there. I put it on automatic so I wouldn’t mess up the shots.
Glad I was able to take you there, Jackie!
Yes, it’s Catholic. You know, there was a time when the Catholic church was the church to go but I read recently — couldn’t remember where so I checked Google — that the Church of God (I think it’s Pentecostal) now has 24% of the population to the Catholic church’s 2%. Not sure when that shift took place.
They’ve sure got a lot of work ahead of them still, but the parts that they’ve already restored look fantastic. I can understand some of the old trains of thought though. If I was going to mass there, I’d be petty easily distracted by all the amazing artwork.
You’ve captured this gorgeous church well. Like Vera, I find it difficult to get good shots of the so frequently stunning interiors of cathedrals and chapels. Never can seem to get the light quite right…
Are Jamaicans in general religious?
Oh wow, this looks huge. I really like that it seems very much like a typical church, yet totally has a local flavor to it.
Yes, a lot of the mainstream churches here have localized their services and it does make a difference.
Thanks, Sophie, I think I lucked out though. We do have an overwhelming number of churches, most people observe a Sunday or Saturday sabbath and the major religious holidays. I guess that could mean that we’re religious — hahaha, I had to think about that!
I agree, Steve. Hahaha, who’d pay attention to what the priest’s saying when the walls and ceilings are probably so much more attractive?
Great place and beautiful photos, even if I can’t quite get used to the Vegas styled saint.
Thanks, Mary. I love visiting churches too. They inspire awe and reverence.
What a beautiful job they’re doing with the restoration! I’m glad you were able to capture it in your photos. So sad about the murals being painted over, but it looks like the restoration is coming along nicely.
Stunning piece of architecture. Loved the way the inside is decked up. The high walls, the colorful walls and the paintings…
Also loved the colored glass.
Thanks for sharing the place. Have a wonderful weekend Marcia:)
That ceiling looks gorgeous! I can imagine it would take a lot of effort in maintenance? But it looks worth it 🙂 It’s good you’re allowed to take photos inside the church. In some churches I visited in Europe, picture-taking wasn’t allowed 🙁
Beautiful shots….that ceiling is spectacular!
Thanks, Michael. It sure is!
It definitely will, Aleah!
I wasn’t sure at first so I asked. I was happy when they said I could.
It is, Arti. Glad you like it.
Thanks, I hope you do too, Arti.
It was quite a sad thing so it’s good that they’re restoring it. It’s such a beautiful cathedral.
Thanks for stopping by, Andi.
Hahaha, that’s funny, Mette. It does seem a bit bright but for some reason, it seems to work.
Great shots. I rarely end up posting my photos of churches as I’m never happy with how they turn out, similar to what Vera and Sophie said.
That’s interesting, Laurel. Until Vera and Sophie mentioned it, I didn’t realize it was a problem. I’ve been lucky as most times mine have come out fine.
The church is truly a beautiful sight!! The painted windows, the patterns on the ceiling, everything is just amazing!! I have no words to explain! I love how the colours make this place so beautiful!
It sure is, Naxysch. I was in awe when I saw it. Glad you like.
Wonderfully shown, Marcia. Interesting that you mention Saint Martin de Porres, because we came across a statue of him in the entrance to a monastery in Cusco. We also visited the well known St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York just a little over a week ago, but I didn’t know there was an old one.
It sounds like you are enjoying “rediscovering” Jamaica.
Thanks, Andrew. I had no idea about the original St. Patrick’s until I was researching Pierre Toussaint. I’d love to see that statue of Saint Martin. Do you have photos?
I sure am, Narelle. It’s a beautiful thing.
Yes, I took a photo. Perhaps I’ll be able to include it in a near future Cusco post. If I don’t end up doing that, I’ll get it to you personally.
Thanks, Andrew, that’s very generous of you. I’d still like to see it in one of your posts.
What an amazing interior! love the shots. 😉 Your submit button is giving orders… 😆
Oh thanks, Elizabeth. Will have to check on that and a few other things.
Yes, Holy Trinity definitely has an impressive interior.
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