CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 19 August 2017

Print Version    Email to Friend
Old cathedral in China now World Heritage

HONG KONG (UCAN): The former cathedral of Xiamen diocese on Gulangyu Island in eastern Fujian province was included on the UNESCO World Heritage List by the 41st session of the committee held in Krakow, Poland, on July 8.
 
The decision to recognise Christ the King Church as one of the 51 notable sites on the island comes in the centenary year of the building which was commissioned by the Spanish Dominican Bishop Emmanuel Prat in 1917.
 
Bishop Joseph Cai Bingrui explained that the church is currently being renovated, but will open to the public again soon.
 
“There is a tour guide service to introduce the church. It is a good chance to let more people feel the religious culture on the island,” he said.
 
Because it is located at the centre of the heritage area it is expected to attract a lot of attention and a worker at the parish, Joseph Chen, explained, “The church will be open to tourists to let them know more about Catholicism, Gulangyu Church history and Church ministries.”
 
However, as the majority of the Catholic population in the area now lives in the more developed Xiamen City, the downtown Church of Our Lady of the Rosary, which is currently under reconstruction, has been designated as the cathedral church of the diocese, as taking the ferry to Gulangyu is highly inconvenient.
 
“We used to have an English Mass at Gulangyu as well. But it was also moved to Xiamen in 2014,” Chen said.
 
Catholicism was introduced to Xiamen by the Franciscans in 1313, then in 1883 it became an apostolic vicariate under the care of Spanish Dominicans. The Catholic population is now around 30,000 and the diocese has 11 priests.
 
Traders from the west settled on Gulangyu after the Opium War in 1842 and the Treaty of Nanking made Xiamen a trading port
.
Later in 1902, Britain, France, Spain, the United States of America and other western countries signed a treaty with the imperial Qing government turning Gulangyu into a public concession.
 
UNESCO notes that as a result, the island became an important window for Sino-foreign exchange.
 
“It is exceptional example of the cultural fusion that emerged from these exchanges, which remain legible in the urban fabric. There is a mixture of different architectural styles including Traditional Southern Fujian Style, Western Classical Revival Style and Veranda Colonial Style,” UNESCO says in its citation.
 
Among other historic sites on the island are Buddhist and Taoist temples, as well as several Protestant buildings, including a church and former homes of foreign missionaries.

More from this section