This year I met with some tourists from Virginia U.S.A. They were also well travelled global citizens who remarked how much Trinidad reminded them of Hawaii. Something about our chill island vibe, the beaches and the abundance of readily available roadside fruit made them feel this way. They also compared us to Saudi Arabia because our oil and gas refinery nightscape resembled one of the many nights during their stay in the Middle East. However, the one thing that stood out to them was our architecture and the disregard for segmentation in geographic development. By this I mean there is little separation between residential and commercial areas. Now I am not saying that we absolutely do not have separation or zoning because in some areas we do. However, more often than not one is met with fancy dining restaurants smack in the middle of an industrial or manufacturing sector with residential and commercial plots within walking distance from each other. Needless to say they all coexist in harmony.
Quite interestingly one can travel to any other destination and easily identify the architecture and the zone in which a specific type of design style belongs. We have been privy to many influences and the architecture that thrived during the reign of each passing era and the change of hands of ownership. Diversity does not stop there as those who survived the post emancipation period were able to build and design their own homes and businesses using knowledge, skill not forgetting design from their own cultural backgrounds. Hence the result todal is a multifaceted island designer collection of architecture and interior design. The Cathedral Basilica of The Immaculate Conception is one of those relics that has survived to depict this tale. It sits in the capital city, Port of Spain, a bustling district that is also not exempt from (my aforementioned rambling about) lack of zoning. The Cathedral beams magnificence in plain sight. She graces us with her poise and beauty. She is an emblem of hope for the future signifying the strength and power of a nation that has been through a lot but still stands today.
(Photo Credit: “Part 1 The Cathedral of Immaculate Conception,” Trinidad Guardian)
The Cathedral of Immaculate Conception was the first Catholic Church in Port of Spain. It was built by the then Spanish Governor in 1781 and at that time it was not yet a cathedral. An English Governor decided that there was a need for a bigger and better church to accommodate the growing catholic population. In 1816 the foundation stone was set. The shape of the building took the form of a cross. The materials used to build this church included blue metal and limestone sourced from the Laventille quarries. However, iron framework was imported from England for the doors and windows. It was not until 1822 that this church became a Cathedral. In 1851 Pope Pius IX ranked the church as a Minor Basilica.
(Photo Credit: The Front View of The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception , Pinterest)
The design of the Cathedral is heavily Gothic Revival which borrows some features from the gothic era (1150- 1400). There is no surprise that the cathedral’s design was inspired by this style. Aptly, the timing of design and construction coincided with the gothic revival movement that took place whilst the English Governor was in Trinidad. The gothic revival was a movement that began in England in the second half of the 18th century. This style of design reveals a pious mood, one of righteousness and high minded thinking evident in most religious and scholarly institutions. We owe the architects of that era our gratitude. At that time they used creative thinking and design management in technological advancement to conceptualize and execute their design theories. The end result were a few marvelous design solutions to reduce building mass whilst trying to increase space and light in this gothic revival style.
(Photo Credit: The Inside View of The Cathedral of The Immaculate Conception, Fidelity Electronics Limited)
The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception maintains pointed arches which take the weight off the ceiling to balance an overall irregular structure of the building. Yet, it keeps a common ceiling area. There are pinnacles, spires and lots of window tracery. There are ribbed vaults with thinner walls to increase space in the cathedral. The flying buttresses act as a form of support for the walls and ceiling. They take the weight off the walls and transfer them to the ground. This meant more space was used for window installation. Thus more natural light can enter the cathedral. The overall emphasis throughout the design style is vertical. Amidst the beige colour scheme going on for the cathedral’s exterior there was the incorporation of artistic and decorative elements with bursts of colour on the interior. There are statues inside the building as well as a prominent virtuous lady on the upper exterior of the building.
(Photo Credit: The Side View of The Cathedral of The Immaculate Conception, Wikimedia)
The Cathedral of Immaculate Conception is listed as a heritage site at #31 Independence Square Port of Spain. She has been given much care to maintain her structure and stature. If you live in this destination you should definitely find your way to the capital to see what all the hype is about. If you intend on visiting Trinidad, our citizens would love to host you and they eagerly await your arrival. I guarantee you that we are second to none in our cuisine, culture and lifestyle. You just have to experience it to believe it!