Christ Church Cathedral
Christ Church Cathedral is the “Mother Church” of all of the Anglican churches in the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands. In 1670, King Charles II granted the colony (of the Bahamas) to the Lord Proprietors of Carolina. The Proprietors were instructed to “build churches and chapels in furtherance of the Christian Religion.”
The first church building for the Parish of Christ Church was built between 1670 and 1684. It stood to the west of the present building, on what is now known as West Hill Street. It was later destroyed by the Spaniards in 1684. The second building, believed to have stood to the east of the present building in the area of what is now Frederick Street, was completed in 1695. It was destroyed by the Spaniards in 1703. The third building was completed in 1724 at the present site and was made of wood, like all of those before it.
The fourth building, made of locally quarried cut stone replaced the wooden church in 1754. A steeple was added in 1774. In 1827, the steeple was found in a very dangerous condition and was taken down. A new square tower, the existing one, was erected in its place in 1830.
In 1834 an Act was passed by the legislature for the enlargement of Christ Church which was to be connected to the square tower and was to incorporate the other features of the fourth church. The fifth church building, still in use, was opened for services in 1841 and incorporates the tower, a striking feature of the fourth church. The building was extended to the east in 1861 to include the area occupied by the present sanctuary and a part of the present chancel or choir. In 1861 Christ Church Parish Church became a Cathedral and Nassau became a city. The Cathedral remains a historic landmark.
The building is of Gothic architecture. It is made of locally quarried cut limestone blocks, which are held together primarily – though not entirely – by their size and the weight of gravity rather than by cement. As part of a refurbishment project in the 1990s, a number of plans were brought to fruition:
- The construction of the present pews, which were made of mahogany and are replicas of the original pews. They were made by a local Bahamian craftsman, named Lloyd M. Toppin.
- The covering of the cement floors with tiles. The tiles are made of granite and come from Italy.
- The installation of stained-glass windows on the northern and southern sides of the Cathedral. The present stain-glass windows on the northern and southern sides of the Cathedral were hand-crafted by the Statesville Stained Glass Company of Statesville, North Carolina (A brochure describing these windows is available).
The restoration was undertaken by the Very Reverend Foster B. Pestaina and was completed in 1995.
A stunning feature of the Cathedral that was not a part of the refurbishment project was the East windows which depict the Crucifixion in the centre panel, the Empty Tomb and the Ascension in the two side panels. The panels were made in France by M. Fassi-Cadet of Nice. They were a gift from Charles A. Munroe, an American who spent many years in the Bahamas. They were given in memory of his son, Lieutenant Logan Munroe, who died on active duty in the Second World War in the South Pacific on June 16th, 1945. The windows were unveiled and dedicated in March 1949.
There are no tombs in the Cathedral. However, what one will notice on the inside are numerous memorial plaques and engravings which relate the history of distinguished citizens, government officials, loyal army officers, afflicted families and their losses. In the foyer of the Cathedral one can find the following on the south wall:
“crucis hanc imagnem antiquæ uiii forsan sæculo in cantia fabricatæ petram uero e moris eccliæ xpi cantuar de promptam signum saluus amicitiæ firma mentum dd eiusdem eccliæ amici. A. S. MCMXXXIII.”
- (I dedicate this stone replica of an old cross which was made in kent probably in the eighth century but removed from the ruins of Canterbury Cathedral for safe keeping as a mark of the affections of a friend of the same Cathedral. A. S. 1932)
Nassau New Providence P.O. Box N-653