The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
The first Catholic Church in Port of Spain was built in 1781 on the site now known as Tamarind Square. The customary open space the Plaza de Armas, in front of that church is now occupied by the present Cathedral.
Philip Reinagle, was the architect for the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and designed it in the Gothic Revival style. Gothic Architecture is identified by its skeleton of piers, buttresses, pointed arches and vaulting. The structure is held in equilibrium by a “Combination of oblique and vertical forces neutralizing each other” Banister Fletcher.
The main design concept in Gothic Architecture is to reach up towards God. The very high ceilings that were achieved by this style still inspire awe and amazement today
The construction was initiated by Governor Sir Ralph Woodford who felt that a church more in keeping with the needs of the predominant Catholic population should be built. The Governor laid the foundation stone for the cathedral on March 24, 1816.
The building was laid out in the shape of a Latin cross. It was built of blue limestone from the Laventille Hills with the window and door openings framed in yellow stocks brick, originally used as ballast on ships.
“The building when finally completed (in 1851) had been built chiefly on the sweat and blood and sacrifice of the Catholics and had cost $260,000.00. Of this sum the government contributed $80,000.00, not counting the stone of the walls or the wood required for the roof”.
Anthony de Verteuil
In 1851 the church was declared a Minor Basilica by Pope Pius IX, and was consecrated on February 22, 1851, by the first Archbishop of Port of Spain His Grace the Most Rev. Richard Patrick Smith.
The yellow brick towers of the Church that flank the entrance were considered unable to resist an earthquake so the top 25feet was demolished and rebuilt in local hardwood as they are today. The north tower contain 12 bells. A clock was added to the front facade in 1879. There have been several efforts at modernization over the years and the Florentine Marble High Altar was removed to Our Lady’s Chapel along with the beautifully carved communion rails also of Florentine marble, with ornate brass gates. A modern Table altar has been installed at the eastern end of the church and the area that was originally the Sanctuary is now available as seating accommodation.
The Cathedral today is in the midst of the Port of Spain’s business district. This area has deteriorated over the years and there are many problems associated with crime and homeless persons. However, the Cathedral is still the focus of solemn events, such as special masses and funerals, the ordination of priests and the Corpus Christi Day procession.
The Cathedral is listed on the National Trust of Trinidad and Tobago as a significant historical site.
Last Updated on Friday, 21 October 2011 17:56