St. John the Divine Cathedral, situated in the heart of St. John’s, the capital city of Antigua and Barbuda, is a testament to the island’s rich history and spiritual journey. Although originally an Anglican cathedral, this iconic landmark has, over the years, welcomed various denominations under its historic roof. Below are some intriguing facts about this renowned edifice, as well as reflections on its broader religious significance in the context of Christianity.
1. A Phoenix Rises: The Cathedral’s Rebirth
Fact: St. John the Divine Cathedral was rebuilt multiple times due to earthquakes, with the current structure dating back to the 19th century.
The Cathedral, originally constructed in the 17th century, witnessed several natural calamities. Earthquakes in the 17th and 18th centuries reduced the structure to ruins. However, each time, the resilient spirit of the community led to its reconstruction. The present cathedral, made primarily of freestone, stands as a testament to the community’s perseverance.
2. A Unique Architectural Marvel: The Dual Skin
Fact: The cathedral boasts a unique ‘double-wall’ architecture.
Designed to protect against earthquakes and hurricanes, the cathedral’s external wall envelopes the internal structure, providing an extra layer of protection. This architectural feature isn’t just practical; it speaks to the theological idea of God’s protection. As Psalm 91:4 states, “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge.” (Psalm 91:4, NIV)
3. The Iron Gates: Remnants of a Gruesome Past
Fact: The iron gates at the entrance were originally used as slave market barriers.
While the cathedral stands as a beacon of faith, the iron gates are a somber reminder of Antigua’s history with the transatlantic slave trade. The transition of these gates, from instruments of oppression to an integral part of a holy sanctuary, can be likened to the redemptive message of Christianity. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church notes, Christ came to “proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to the oppressed.” (CCC 2448)
4. Embracing Ecumenism: A House for All
Fact: Today, while it remains an Anglican Cathedral, St. John the Divine also opens its doors to other denominations.
Over the years, the cathedral has become a space for ecumenical gatherings. Different Christian denominations come together to worship, highlighting the universal call for Christian unity. The Second Vatican Council’s Decree on Ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio, emphasizes that “Christ the Lord founded one Church and one Church only.” This ecumenical spirit mirrors the cathedral’s role as a unifying spiritual landmark.
5. The Cross atop: Made from Indigenous Wood
Fact: The cross that graces the top of the cathedral’s tower is crafted from local wood, symbolizing the blending of faith and local culture.
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Catholicism has always celebrated the integration of local cultures into the faith, emphasizing that the Gospel message can take root in diverse settings. As the Catechism explains, “The Church is catholic, which means universal, and is sent to all peoples.” (CCC 831)
6. The Cathedral’s Patron: St. John the Divine
Fact: The Cathedral is dedicated to St. John the Divine, also known as St. John the Apostle and Evangelist.
St. John, one of Jesus’ twelve apostles, is credited with writing the Gospel of John, three New Testament epistles, and the Book of Revelation. His writings emphasize the divine nature of Christ and God’s boundless love. The cathedral’s dedication to St. John signifies the community’s aspiration to live out the love and theological depth evident in his writings.
“God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.” (1 John 4:16, NIV)
St. John the Divine Cathedral in Antigua is more than just an architectural masterpiece; it’s a rich tapestry of history, faith, resilience, and unity. Whether you’re exploring its theological significance or marveling at its unique structure, this cathedral offers a profound glimpse into Antigua’s spiritual heart and the broader Christian journey.
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Note: While content aims to align with Catholic teachings, any inconsistencies or errors are unintended. For precise understanding, always refer to authoritative sources like the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Always double-check any quotes for word-for-word accuracy with the Bible or the Catechism of the Catholic Church.