Under Construction, Catholic Church in Xiamen May Become New Landmark

The old Cathedral of the Holy Rosary
The old Cathedral of the Holy Rosary (photo: Paul Wu )
By CCD contributor: Paul Wu November 3rd, 2020

A Catholic church in Xiamen, China's southeastern Fujian Province is under construction to become a local new landmark. 

Xiamen is a well-known sea garden city in China. In one or two years, there will be a beautiful landmark building on Lujiang Road and tourists coming to Xiamen will have a new place to visit.

The building is the cathedral of the Catholic diocese of Xiamen, named Cathedral of the Holy Rosary. As the seat of the parish bishop, it is the place where the bishop holds mass, teaches the believers, and gives an overview of the ministry administration. The bishop’s lodgings are near the church.

In 1842, a Dominican priest named Lin Francis went to Xiamen’s Gulangyu Island to preach. This began the development of Catholicism in Xiamen in modern times. Since then the nuns of Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul have come to Xiamen. At that time, the Zengcuoan Village Church, built during the Ming Dynasty, had been destroyed so private houses were rented as a temporary meeting place and residence.

In 1859, Bishop Miguel Calderon of Fujian sent a Italian priest to Xiamen to oversee the construction of churches. The priest hired people from the nearby beaches at the Feet of Bamboo Trees to build a church and ancillary houses. The church was built in 1860, covering an area of 413 square meters. It could accommodate more than 500 people. The church building was built in a double clock tower in Roman-style with an altar in the center and on both sides. The altar in the center was a statue of the Madonna of Chinese Roses. So it was also called Notre Dame de Rose. A building for the priests was built in 1873. In 1877, the Catholic Charity Church was established.

Cathedral of the Holy Rosary was the cathedral of the Xiamen parish from 1883 to 1917. In 1916, the Dominican priest Ma Shouren of Spain took over as Bishop of Xiamen Diocese. He exchanged the house of Xiamen Catholic Church with the house of the Dominican property in Tianwei Road and Gulangyu Island. He also moved the Bishop's Office to Gulangyu Island. Xiamen Catholic Church became the meeting place of the Dominican church, the activity center of the Spanish Dominican priests. At that time, the cathedral was a landmark building on Lujiang Road and people who came ashore could see this magnificent building.

During the Cultural Revolution, all religious activities at the catheral stopped and it was used as a factory. The original twin towers might have been demolished during this period. In the 1980s the Catholic Church in Xiamen resumed religious activities, and the Notre Dame Hall was set up in the upstairs of the former priest’s building at No.15 Ci 'an Road, covering an area of 43 square meters. It could accommodate more than 60 people. During weekdays and on Sundays, members of the church prayed and recited the scriptures together, and priests often came to mass regularly, which was organized by nuns.

In July 2007, the Xiamen Municipal Government returned the property deed of the former Xiamen Catholic Church to the Church. On the eve of National Day in 2008, the right to use the original Xiamen Catholic Church was returned to the Church. After more than half a year's renovation, Xiamen Catholic Church held an opening celebration ceremony on August 22nd, 2009.

Because many of the original residents of Gulangyu Island moved elsewhere, the number of persons attending the church also decreased.  Notre Dame de Rose once again became the cathedral of Xiamen parish. In June 2009, Father Cai Bingrui was elected as Bishop of Xiamen Diocese. On May 8, 2010, he was consecrated as Bishop of Xiamen Diocese at Notre Dame de Rose.

In March 2016, Xiamen Diocese prepared to rebuild the Cathedral by demolishing the original building, leaving only the priest's building intact. They built a new Notre Dame Cathedral on the original site. The foundation stone was laid on March 10, 2018, and construction began in May of that year. The church is scheduled to be completed in May 2020. At present, the work on the interior has started and the church is expected to be put into use within one or two years.

The reconstructed Cathedral of the Holy Rosary covers an area of 4000 square meters and is one of the largest churches in Xiamen. Its twin towers will become the new landmark of Lujiang Road. In addition, the cathedral is only a few steps away from the Protestant Zhushu Church in Xiamen, and the two churches will share the grace of God together of the old Xiamen.

- Translated by Charlie Li

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