Holy Trinity Cathedral goes on educational, $m dollar restoration drive

Trinidad and Tobago Guardian
Geisha Kowlessar
Published: Friday, March 31, 2017

Interim Rector of the Holy Trinity Cathedral, Fr Carl Williams, speaks during an interview on the restoration of the church.

Interim Rector of the Holy Trinity Cathedral, Fr Carl Williams, speaks during an interview on the restoration of the church.
It is revered as an oasis in the midst of the hustle and bustle of downtown Port-of-Spain.

In existence for 193 years, the Holy Trinity Cathedral at Abercromby Street is beginning to lose its magnificence.

The church, led by Anglican Bishop Claude Berkley, is on an educational and financial drive to restore the edifice to its former glory.

Interim Rector of the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Port-of-Spain, Fr Carl Williams, said preliminary estimation put the cost at millions of dollars as there was the possibility of further structural damage due to a once leaking roof.

The church also has an immense role as several Government functions take place there annually including the ceremonial opening of the Law Term and Interfaith Services for the Defence Force and Cadets which are held every quarter.

The funeral service for former Prime Minister Patrick Manning was also held at the Holy Trinity Cathedral.

The key areas of the church in dire need to restoration, Williams said, included the buttress on the north eastern side of the belfry, the two largest crosses on the eastern side and cross on the western gate.

Williams said the crosses were knocked down when a 6.2 earthquake shook the country in December last year.

Some were completely destroyed while a few of the pieces were saved.

“Some were also taken down by one of the structural engineers along with the Fire Service because of the danger they posed due to a weak structure,” Williams said.

But to either rebuild or reconstruct the crosses may be challenging as they are made from limestone which has to be imported.

“Some of the crosses could be salvaged and restored with the same material. We just cannot put each and everything up there because this is a heritage site and the national trust would not allow you to do that.

“The building is almost 200 years old and we have to make sure it is preserved according the guidelines of the National Trust,” Williams said.

Williams said the church’s council was working closely with the National Trust and the Works Ministry to plan a way forward.

He said last week a team from the ministry visited the church but no final decision had been made regarding either financing or the hiring of architects.

“It is really a project for the Bishop and council. The Bishop is the one who is going to lead it. The Cathedral is the seat of the Bishop so therefore the Bishop is the one who is responsible for the Cathedral. When it comes to matters of restoration you must have the Bishop and trustees,” Williams added.

Some areas on the inside the building also need attention like missing panes of stained glass windows which are steeped in history.

“We have to find the right people to get this done. In the safety of the Cathedral the wardens check periodically to ensure the building is safe and this is reported to the vestry and to the Bishop,” Williams said.

The unique pipe organ which has brought hymns to life over the years has to be meticulously taken down, pipe by pipe and carefully stored away before interior work can be done.

This, Williams said, must be done before any interior restoration could take place so as to prevent the tubes from clogging with dust and debris.

“This is a very delicate job and the organ builder from Barbados will have to come in to do it,” he said.

A haven for the downtrodden

The Cathedral continues to open its doors promptly at 5 am until 6 pm daily.

It invites people from all walks of life come in to seek solace.

“The Cathedral is a place where people come every day for pray and meditation and we have groups meeting here. There is always some activity in the church.

“We have various youth and church organisations meeting here,” Williams said.

Describing the Cathedral as a national treasure, he said people also frequent the “Garden of Peace” which is on the church’s compound.

“It is an oasis in the city to just uplift their hearts and voices to God. This Cathedral is not just a building that is beautiful it is a place where persons can turn their hearts to God and listen to his direction and counsel,” Williams added.

The Holy Trinity Cathedral in Port- of- Spain is of fine Gothic design. It was completed in 1818 and consecrated on May 25th, 1823, Trinity Sunday. Also in the Gothic design is the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, which took 16 years to build and was consecrated on February 22, 1951. It was completed by the Catholic Church and is one of the oldest landmarks in Port of Spain.

The Holy Trinity Cathedral is one of Port of Spain’s oldest landmarks. Up until 1835, the Trinity was the only Anglican Church in the island hence it has been affectionately called ‘the Mother Church of the Diocese’. Its rich history dates back to colonial days. Back then it stood as a wooden edifice called ‘Trinity Church’ catering exclusively for the British forces and English residence in the colony.

The first Anglican Church, known simply as the Trinity Church, was a modest wooden building on the corner of Prince and Frederick streets. In 18008, a great fire swept through the city, burning down every public building, including the church. Their place of worship lost, the Anglican community continued their praise in the Cabildo building (Old Town Hall) on Knox Street.

In 1809, Governor Thomas Hislop and the City Council petitioned King George III for financial assistance to construct a new church. The British Parliament granted £50,000 to the colony, £20,000 of which would be used for a gaol (prison) and the church and the rest for the erection of the Government House.

The church has embarked on a number of restoration projects including that of its first and only three manual pipe organ installed in 1914, a rare instrument in the West Indies. They have also decided to install signs at the 70 Anglican Schools nationwide.

Other projects include the establishment of a halfway house for graduates of their Tacarigua Orphanage, the construction of a multi-purpose room at the Cathedral and an archive room and library at the Bishop’s office.

In 2011 the church’s tower clock was fixed. Michael Williams, the man responsible for repairing the clock said the it played Westminster chimes every hour and strikes by number so it plays ten strokes at ten o’clock.

Taken from: https://www.guardian.co.tt/news/2017-03-31/church-goes-educational-m-dollar-restoration-drive