St. John the Divine Cathedral, St. Johns, Antigua
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member PersonsMD
N 17° 07.372 W 061° 50.542
20Q E 623148 N 1893513
Founded in 1681 and constructed in 1843-1848 St. Johns Cathedral (Anglican) overlooks the city of St. Johns Antigua. The baroque architecture and placement on the highest point in the city make this a stunning landmark.
Waymark Code: WM82Q9
Location: Antigua and Barbuda
Date Posted: 01/17/2010
Published By:Groundspeak Premium Member Marine Biologist
Views: 15

The Cathedral is known by two names: St. Johns Cathedral and St. John the Devine’s Cathedral. The cathedral was closed for remodeling in January 2010.

The following is cited from: The Museum of Antigua & Barbuda

“Two St. John's Anglican Churches have already stood on the site of the present cathedral. The first was built of wood as early as 1681 and was said to be "totally destitute of beauty or comfort". The second was constructed with English brick about 1720 when the first fell in disrepair and became too small.

The church was designed by Mr. Robert Cullen and had a short steeple at its western end. After over a century, the church was elevated to the status of a cathedral when the Diocese of Antigua was created in August 1842.

As plans were being made to make the church worthy of its new status, a violent earthquake severely damaged it in February 1843. Temporary repairs were made and in it Bishop Daniel Davis was enthroned as the first Bishop of Antigua.

Next to the site of the first two churches a new purpose built cathedral was planned and approved by the House of Assembly. The Governor, Sir Charles Augustus Fitzroy, laid the cornerstone on October 9, 1843 and on October 10 three years later, the Cathedral was opened for divine service. It was consecrated on July 25, 1848.

The Cathedral is built of freestone and the architect was Mr. J. Fuller of Bath and the Clerk of Works was Mr. F.W. Rowe of Bristol. The interior is encased in pitch pine, intending to secure the building from ruin during earthquake or hurricane. It has been described as "a building within a building".

The Cathedral is dominated by twin towers at the west end and provides a distinct baroque flavor. They are 70 ft high and the cupolas that crown the towers are aluminum in color. At the time of erection, the edifice was criticized by ecclesiastical architects as being like "a pagan temple with two dumpy pepper pot towers", however in modern times the edifice has been cited as "the most imposing of all the Cathedrals of the West Indian Province".

Originally the south gate was the main entrance to the Cathedral. On top of its pillars are the bronze figures of St. John the Divine and St. John the Baptist. H.M.S. Temple is said to have taken these figures from a French ship destined for Martinique in 1756 during the Seven Years War. The iron gates themselves date from 1789.

A centenarian, Samuel Smith in his memoirs (To Shoot Hard Labor), says "the planters called the Cathedral 'Big Church' and that it frightened the people as a symbol of English power. He also said that the Anglican Church catered more for the planter class, but the black people got more involved at about the time of World War I. At last some black persons names were memorialized on the cathedral's walls"” (End)

Earthquakes in 1683 and in 1745 destroyed the previous structures. The one in 1745 brought whole structure toppling to the ground, while the 1843 quake left the Cathedral of St. John the Divine reeling yet again.

The iron gates on the south face of the church are flanked by pillars displaying lead figures of St John the Divine and St John the Baptist. They were taken by HMP Temple in 1756, from a French ship destined for Martinique.

The Anglican Cathedral of St. John the Divine is one of the lasting tributes to Europe's early exploration of the Caribbean islands. The current church is constructed in a neo-Baroque style. The interior of St John's Cathedral has completely encased in a variety of substances (most prevalently pitch pine) to ensure that the cathedral remains upright.

The cupolas rise seventy feet into the air. The sight of the towers of the St. John the Divine Cathedral is more meaningful for those approaching on boat – it is often the first structure your eye can make out as your ships pull into the harbor. But for years St. John"s cathedral was seen by the slaves as a imposing symbol of fear – the giant white strength of the English who called the island home.

The church is famous for the bronze statues of St. John the Baptist, and the St. John the Devine found on the exterior of the cathedral. The figures were taken from French warships in the mid 18th century, spoils of battle placed where everyone could see – the bronze figures still adorn the tops of the church's southern pillars.

Sources Used:
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Date the Church was built, dedicated or cornerstone laid: 10/09/1843

Age of Church building determined by?: Historical Society

If denomination of Church is not part of the name, please provide it here: Anglican

If Church holds a weekly worship service and "all are welcome", please give the day of the week: Sunday

Street address of Church:
Church & Long Streets at Church Lane
St. Johns, Antigua

Primary website for Church or Historic Church Building: [Web Link]

Secondary Website for Church or Historic Church Building: [Web Link]

If Church is open to the public, please indicate hours: Not listed

Indicate the time that the primary worship service is held. List only one: Not Listed

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