The Cathedral - A short History
1781 – A church is built on the site that is now called Tamarind Square. It was 80 feet by 48 feet and had a capacity for 500 people. It was dedicated to the Immaculate Conception.
1808 –Fire burns down city of Port of Spain (412 houses are destroyed including Trinity Anglican Church). Church of Immaculate Conception is not damaged.
1814 –The Vicar Apostolic Don Joaquim de Aristimuno discusses with the Colonial Governor Sir Ralph Woodford the need for a new Catholic Church in the Capital. The Governor draws plans for new church and sends a report to the Secretary of the Colonies. He decrees that all debts to the Catholic church be paid no later than three months from the decreed date.
1816 (march 24) – Foundation stone laid for New Cathedral by English (Anglican) Governor Sir Ralph Woodford. The Colonial Government gives 16,000 pounds sterling at the time for the construction of a new Catholic Church. The site given for construction is the most eastern part of the “plaza de Armes” (where the troops were drilled), now called the Brian Lara promenade.
1823 – After a stoppage of work for 18 months due to lack of funds, Pope Leo XII sends money to continue construction of new Building.
1825 (Sept 20) – original towers damaged by an Earthquake – rebuilt.
1826 – Colonial Government gives 2,500 pounds sterling to install the roof of the building.
1830 – The Nave of the church is dedicated.
1832 (April 15) – After 16 years the church is completed. It is blessed by Bishop Daniel McDonnell. 1200 People attend Mass that day.
1849 – The final debt of the church is paid off (1,500 pounds sterling) by Parish Priest Richard Patrick Smith. With all outstanding monies paid the building can now be consecrated. He describes the building as “a magnificent edifice” of which “the type is second order Gothic”
1850 (April 30) – Richard Patrick Smith elevated to Archbishop. Port of Spain Elevated to Archdiocese status, Church of the Immaculate Conception elevated to Cathedral.
1850 (Aug 5) – a Memorial Cross is carried in Procession from the Cathedral to the top of Laventille Hill in a solemn procession and planted by Archbishop Richard Patrick Smith. He declares the area to be a high place for Marian Devotion. Later a Sanctuary would be erected there. Also a Statue would be erected with the inscription “Posuerunt me custodem” (They have made me their Guardian).
1851 (Feb 23) – Cathedral consecrated by Archbishop Richard Patrick Smith
1851 – Pope Pius IX declares the Cathedral to rank the status of Minor Basilica and to enjoy the privileges of the Major Basilica of Saint Mary Major in Rome.
1857 (Feb 1) – Marble Altar consecrated by Archbishop Vincent Spaccapietra
1863 (July 10) – Building was damaged by an Earthquake
1879 – Clock (with three dials) added to façade
1897 – Major Renovations done to Entire Building, entire roof replaced and the whole Nave was restored, Circular Windows were put on Pivots to open and close for Ventilation purposes. Around this time, the entire building is enclosed by a wrought –iron railing and the frontage is made into a flower garden.
1913 – Original Pipe Organ is replaced by another made by Walker and Sons of London. This too would be replaced.
1925 (may 25) – New Clock installed by English Firm
1950 – The Archdiocese celebrates 100 years with a Holy Year of Jubilee.
1954 (Dec) – Building once more damaged by Earthquake
1962 – Extensive Renovations done (2 years in completion)
1966 – According to instructions set forth in the second Vatican Council the Florentine statuary marble High Alter is taken down. It is moved to the Northern side of the Church and is still there. The communion rails are taken down and part is installed in the newly placed altar on the northern side of the church. A new Marble Altar is installed.
- The Cathedral has had another Renovation since, and is due for another now.
The above will be printed in the Cathedral Newsletter for April 18th 2010.