Because of the extent of the work that needs to be done at the Cathedral and its significance, the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal, in the first years, will be closely related to the Cathedral Project. When the Project is completed, however, the Annual Appeal will continue as a permanent part of the annual fund-raising efforts of the Archdiocese.
The Cathedral: Beginnings
In 1784, the Spanish Government paid for the erection of a small church, 80 feet by 48 feet, in the area known today as Tamarind Square, east of the present Cathedral. It soon became evident that the building was too small for the rapidly growing population but military expenses in the final years of Spanish rule denied Catholics a larger church.
By 1815, when the first civilian Governor Sir Ralph Woodford came to Trinidad, Catholics had collected $10,000 towards a new church. The Catholic Church found a good friend in the British Governor who engaged his secretary Philip Renagle to draw up plans for the new structure. On 25 March 1816, Governor Woodford personally laid the foundation stone of the church, hoping that his association with the project would stimulate contributions. By November, the foundation was completed but work ceased due to a lack of funds.
The church, our Cathedral, would not be completed until 1851 at a cost of $260,000. Historian Fr Anthony de Verteuil, CSSp, writes in Temples of Trinidad that the church “had been built chiefly on the sweat and blood and sacrifice of the Catholics ...
“The walls of the building were made of limestone quarried from the nearby Laventille hills and painfully cut with chisels. The mouldings for the doors and windows were made of freestone in England, which also supplied the iron frames for the windows. The corners of the building were made of imported bricks.
“By 1823 the unplastered walls had been built, very thick at the bottom, forty-five feet high, but only thirteen and a half inches at the top. Then for three years there was complete impasse, and the building remained with walls and no roof, for the country was in a financial crisis and no government help was forthcoming...”
On Saturday 22 February, 1851, Archbishop Patrick Smith, first Archbishop of Port of Spain, presided at the solemn dedication of the Cathedral in the presence of Bishop Michael Monaghan of Roseau, Dominica, 15 priests and an immense congregation. At the end of the five-hour ceremony, bread and meat were distributed to 3,200 poor people. The Cathedral was raised to the rank of a Minor Basilica in 1857.
Like the original church, the Cathedral is dedicated to the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Last Updated on Monday, 23 May 2011 20:35