Restoring Kingston Holy Trinity Cathedral

This article from the Jamaica Observer looks at the recent efforts to restore to its earlier magnificence the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity located on North Street (downtown Kingston), once considered an ecclesiastical triumph for Roman Catholics.

The Holy Trinity Cathedral was erected after the destruction of the Holy Trinity Church, on the corner of Duke and Sutton streets, in the 1907 earthquake and relocated from its original site to the ‘Colmar Estate’ adjoining Winchester Park. In 1908, construction of the new structure began. But it would take until February 1911 for the magnificent edifice to eventually open its doors. At its pinnacle, copper dome gleaming from a distance; it stood at 85 feet, its area covering an impressive 12,600 square feet. Since then, the Holy Trinity Cathedral has served as the appropriate setting for many a major event, including the ordination of priests, honorary visits by the Pope, and funeral and memorial services for prominent public figures.

However, one aspect of the Cathedral, that had been notably neglected over the years, was its structural and aesthetic beauty: the lofty ceiling and walls covered in frescoes, beautiful stained glass windows, the Carrara marble High altar — Byzantine in style, the old pipe organ so distinctive in nature and the second largest of its kind in the Caribbean. In recent times, however, the Cathedral with its broken stained glass, damaged altar, cracked baptismal font and electrical and structural damage was in dire need of repairs. What was and still is absolutely incredulous is the fact that the murals had been covered in grey paint! A far cry from its former glory days and the vision of New York architect Raymond F Admiral.

Help would come in 2006, with an initiative instigated by the National Commercial Bank Foundation, which joined forces with the Cathedral Restoration Committee, led by then Archbishop Lawrence Burke, May Lowe, resident architect Clifton Yap and Monsignor Kenneth Richards. They, under the patronage of former Spanish Ambassador to Jamaica Jesús Silva, spearheaded the project, with the hope of revitalising downtown Kingston, as well as creating employment opportunities, and building skills of craftsmen from the neighbouring communities.

Spain would for the first time include an English-speaking Caribbean country in its prestigious Restoration of Historical Patrimony — a programme that encourages the preservation of a country’s historical and cultural monuments. The mother church of the Catholic community, the Holy Trinity Cathedral was declared a National Heritage Monument on January 7, 2000. A move that would lead to international restoration expert Professor Antonio Sanchez-Barriga being enlisted by Ambassador, Silva and visiting the island on several occasions to train the group of locals who had come forward to work on the Cathedral — 31 total. Along with his team of architects, engineers and artists, he drafted plans for the restoration of both the infrastructure of the Cathedral as well as the interior artwork. With his assistance and under his tutelage, the restoration could now begin.

Currently the team is hard at work on the floors, which will be in pure white, mimicking the white marble of the cathedral floors in its heyday. Thus far, most of the restoration to the frescoes on the walls and in the dome is complete. And a new baptismal pool has been installed in the centre of the building, as well as a new marble altar from Italy in the front of the church. Unfortunately, due to complaints by residents living in the surrounding hills, the once majestic copper dome no longer shines, but is instead covered in paint to appease the distant neighbours.

Of course, additional funding is still needed in order for the exercise to reach fruition. It’s already been over three years going, and there is still much to be done — the organ has been pulled down for repairs, a few stained glass windows still remain broken, while the leaking roof threatens to undo the progress that has been made thus far.

At a press conference in 2008, Thalia Lyn, Chairman of the NCB Foundation, stated, “This is a monumental step towards achieving real change for our country — one that is tangible and beautiful — which will positively impact the surrounding areas of downtown Kingston and restore pride in ourselves… We allowed this National Heritage site to fall to ruin, and like our lives and our faith, it had to be restored.”

Lyn affirmed that the restoration of the Cathedral was in fact a highly ambitious project, however she stressed, “It is important to preserve our heritage and history, and if we can provide employment and develop skills at the same time, our fellow Jamaicans can’t help but embrace the project and make this one of which we will all be extremely proud!”

For more information on how you can get involved, contact:

The Holy Trinity Cathedral

1-3 George Headley Drive, Kingston.

Tel: (876)922-3335/(876)948-5699

E-mail: htcrestfund@cs.com

Mailing Address: 21 Hopefield Avenue, Kingston 6

From the Jamaica Observer at http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/lifestyle/Restoring-the-Cathedral–and-the-Community—HOLY-TRINITY-CATHEDRAL_8050516

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