Located in the heart of Guangzhou, the Sacred Heart Cathedral is one of the city’s most impressive historical structures to survive into the modern day. A fully-functioning catholic church, Sacred Heath cathedral was originally built in 1888 by the French but has since become an important pillar of the Catholic community in this part of China.
A visit to this cathedral is something you’re not going to want to miss if you’re interested in either architecture or religious history (or both). An easy metro stop away, give the Sacred Heart Cathedral a chance to wow you and you won’t be disappointed.
Interesting Facts About Sacred Heart Cathedral
-The Cathedral stands at a maximum height of 58.5 meters, with a width of 35 meters and a length of 79 meters.
-Despite being a truly significant structure with regards to the history of this part of China, its style is clearly influenced by western countries and architecture, making it a unique experience for those visiting China.
-The East tower of the Sacred Heart Cathedral holds 4 heavy bronze bells known as the Virgin Mary Bell Group, they were imported from France and have remained here ever since.
-The locals refer to the Sacred Heart Cathedral the shi shi. When translated, this literally means “stone house”. This is probably because this is the largest granite Catholic structure in the whole of the southeast of China.
-The Sacred Heart Cathedral happens to be one of only four solid granite churches in the whole world.
The History Of Sacred Heart Cathedral
Whilst the site may now belong to the Sacred Heart Cathedral these days, it wasn’t always that way. During the Qing Dynasty, the area actually belonged to the Viceroy of the Guangdong and Guangxi Provinces and was where his residence was maintained. When the area was captured by the British, however, the Viceroy’s residence was completed destroyed. In 1861, the site was obtained by a French organization known as the Société des Missions Etrangères de Paris. With the support of various groups and people, the construction on the cathedral began in 1861 and was completed by 1888.
This original construction occurring during the time of Napoleon III, and he was largely responsible for its funding. Whilst this may be a historical structure and a part of historical China, even today it stands apart from a lot of the other structures of such history in the area.
Of course, over time the structure has gradually worn away and periodic repair and maintenance have occurred, including two years in 2005, during which time the cathedral was shut down. Yet it is because of these closures that the Sacred Heart Cathedral has continued to remain faithful to the original.
The Culture Of Sacred Heart Cathedral
Walk the Cathedral Grounds: Before heading inside the magnificent structure, take a walk around the Sacred Heart Cathedral’s grounds. You’ll find yourself admiring the building more than you thought possible. Make sure to pay particular attention to the building’s Façade. The design and style were highly influenced by western countries and architecture, leading to the mix of gothic and baroque you can see today. The main entrance into the cathedral also inspires recollections of turgid aesthetics.
Sit in During Mass: When services are running, visitors are more than welcome to sit in on them. Many locals attend the services here and will greet outsiders with open arms. Make sure to observe the customary etiquette though. You will be expected to not cause a disturbance or detract from what they are doing. You are also not allowed to walk around the church during mass.
Admire the Building’s Stained Glass: The Sacred Heart Cathedral is home to some truly incredible stained glass. Admire the designs and more. You can also ask the Cathedral staff for more information about any of those you find particularly interesting. They will, of course, help you as much as possible.
Haizhu Square: Next to the Sacred Heart Cathedral you’ll find Haizhu square. As a proper Chinese public square, it’s a good place to relax and have a chat. In the center of the square, you’ll find a statue known as the Guangzhou Liberates Memorial.
The Pearl River: Just a short walk from the cathedral and you’ll find the Pearl River. Take a walk along its edge to see more of the city and the opposing shoreline. You can also cross the nearby bridge and head to the other side. There, you’ll find several great restaurants located along the shoreline and facing you. A great way to finish up a day in the area.
Taying Tower: Also near to the Sacred Heart Cathedral is the Taying Tower. Built by the Xingxing dock firm, the tower holds a special place in the hearts of Chinese people as it was once lived in by Sun Yat-sen. Whilst it can be hard to find the small-ish building amongst its surrounding larger structures, it is worthwhile if you’re interested in China’s literary culture.
Explore the Surrounding Markets: Surrounding the Sacred Heart Cathedral is a large market from which you can buy pretty much anything you could want. Spend some time exploring the area and picking up souvenirs either before or after you’ve explored the cathedral itself.
Tips For Visiting Sacred Heart Cathedral
-Make sure to bring long trousers. You will not be granted admittance if you happen to be wearing short skirts of clothes which the Cathedral staff don’t deem as appropriate. Free long aprons are available for visitors at the entrance.
-The nearest metro station is Haizhu Square. Exit through exit B2 and walk in a westward direction down Yide road until you find the cathedral. It should be easy to spot.
-Be careful of your possessions in the surrounding market. The streets can get busy and it can be easy to end up being pick pocketed. Just keep an eye on your thinks and you should be fine.
-The church is open most days from 8 am to 5:30 pm. Entrance is free.