You may have walked past the Holy Trinity Cathedral before and not even known it. The church has been under construction for a couple of years now and protected from public view by the ever-cunning big cement construction wall. But it’s still there, awaiting its impending resurrection amid a chorus of jackhammers.
Completed in 1869, the Holy Trinity remains one of the oldest western-style buildings still standing in Shanghai. Its stunning design features the architectural stylings of Sir Gilbert Scott of Albert Memorial fame, widely considered to be one of the greatest architects England produced during the Victorian era (see Londonist’s piece on Scott for a more in-depth look). Its adjacent tower and spire, added 1893, featured Westminster chimes and rose to an impressive elevation of 50 meters. This may seem like a trifle these days, but in those pre-Lujiazui Financial District times the spire was the tallest structure in the city. The final touch, which elevated the Trinity into the upper echelon of east-Asian cathedrals, was the installation of an elaborate pipe organ in 1914.
The Holy Trinity was responsible for the salvation of a large Anglican community and was seen as a pillar of the international community. It was well-known to the Chinese community as well, who call it the ‘Hong Miao’ ( 红庙:Red Temple). Trinity’s congregation also was known for their prestigious upper-crust boys’ school, run out of the similarly striking art deco building next door, that counted among its students the young J.G. Ballard (recently featured on Shanghaiist) who describes his experiences at Trinity in his book Empire of the Sun. During the Japanese occupation, a Trinity-led relief effort helped to sustain many families and individuals in need. In the full-scale Japanese invasion of Shanghai following Pearl Harbor, Trinity was greatly damaged. Later on it was gutted by the Communists and turned into a state-run theater (yawn). Being far too significant a symbol of dangerous Western ideas, the spire was knocked down during the Cultural Revolution and the chimes were lost as well.
Now renovations are in full gear under the auspices of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement. The Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM), as you may or may not know, is one of two Protestant churches allowed by the CCP and no, the name is not a bad translation of the word ‘trinity’. Their headquarters is located in what used to be the boys’ school in the adjacent building. Interestingly enough, they have also enlisted the help of an architectural firm managed by Sir Scott’s decedents, who may or may not have inherited his flair for the gothic. Security guard estimates have the reopening slated for 2010, just in time for the second coming (Shanghai World Expo).
Jiujiang Lu near Jiangxi Lu (九江路近江西路）
More information on Trinity restoration project.
TSPM gears up for the Olympics.