Renaissance Influences in the Caribbean
As a child growing up in Jamaica, I would marvel at all the churches everywhere. I remember once asking my mom why there were so many different churches and varying denominations of churches. She said it would be too much to explain, which is true. I found myself very drawn to the architecture of the old churches. I understood their beauty for what I could see, But somehow they've always seemed a bit out of place.
Through Art History classes, I'm able to understand now why they seem so out of place. Jamaica a world away from Rome, Paris and Barcelona, but the culture and architecture are not. With the discovery of Jamaica in 1494 by Spanish settlers, they brought their culture, religion and ways of life with them. Many of the churches on the island is a mixture of gothic and renaissance inspired motifs and facades.
The settlers were fast to converting the indigenous Arawaks, Taino and Caribs to Christianity. Since Jamaica was a port of entry for trade in the Caribbean, the island went through many different settlement stages. First, the Spanish, then the English and the French, Which a steady rotation as power falls from each of their hands periodically. Each nation added their take on the island's religious framework, which leaves us with these exciting churches.
Most notably, The Holy Trinity Cathedral in Kingston, Jamaica. This is the most beautiful church on the island. Built-in the Byzantine style, The Catherdal boast an impressive 85 feet copper doom. With beautiful frescoes painted on the ceilings of the dome.(1) There is also the majestic stain glass windows which feature saints. What's most impressive is these saints are portrayed to be black. The original date the building was erected is unknown, but according to records, the original church was damaged in the 1907 earthquake and rebuilt in 1911 (2)
Unfortunately, in the 1970s, many of the original frescoes were painted over. This is primarily because the church had fallen into disrepair with very little money to go towards restoration. In 2008, there have been some efforts to restore the church and bring it back to its original splendor. (3)
Today the cathedral serves as a national jewel of Jamaica where many important ceremonies are held.