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ART & LEISURE: Island of serenity in the name of St.Joseph
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Island of serenity in the name of St.Joseph

By Nadia N.

BT 201601 140 Art Leisure 001Being far from your home country gives you a lot of opportunities to explore and discover. And, living in such a different and spectacular environment like China, without a doubt, provides a whole spectrum of experiencing "another world". From day to day, "laowais" (foreigners) are trying to accept and blend into the Chinese way of life, look for food and dishes they can enjoy, speak Mandarin at least on a "taxi level", and understand the rich symbolism of this ancient culture. But from time to time, it is vital to just eat something "classic", watch something "understandable", walk somewhere "empty", and visit a place that feels like home. For many of us, visiting a Catholic church or cathedral was a good tradition at home, and it would be a shame for us to change this habit. Luckily there are some places in Tianjin where Catholic foreigners, as well as Chinese people, can come to worship on Sundays. The most well-known and easy to find is The St. Joseph Cathedral, or Xilai Church.

The church is located on the southern end of Binjiang Dao, The Pedestrian Street. The church was built more or less in 1913 by French missionaries. And as it is in the Old French Concession of Tianjin, each brick and piece was shipped from France. The St. Joseph Cathedral, with its classic architectural style and religious art, is one of Tianjin's most cherished historical relics. Surrounded by downtown skyscrapers, brandy shops, restaurants and coffee spots, the church is an island of serenity.

Entering the gates of the cathedral, you find yourself in front of the massive church doors with a statue of the Virgin Mary and place for prayer on the left. However, it is difficult to light set a candle or to pray outside, as many non-catholic visitors with their phones will see you as a point of interest that needs to be taken photo of! In that case, or stay strong and concentrated or, please, follow us inside the church.

St.Joseph's was built in the shape of a cross when viewed from above. White and red bricks, brought from overseas more than a century ago, add charm to the facade of the cathedral. On the doorway of the church you will see some reminders - don't use phones, don't speak loudly and please don't spit on the floor. So, behave! When you enter the church, you will definitely admire the elegance of the interior - religious art inspired by the Bible, great open space, and light blue, white and soft yellow palettes.

As the church was made following the French and Roman architectural styles, the main hall includes two rows of seven great columns. Oil paintings and murals hang and cover the walls all around, showing scenes from Bible stories. Statues of Mary, Jesus, Angels and Saints can be seen inside. If you look up, you will see the roof culminates in a central dome and octagonal windows with inlay paintings.

St.Joseph's celebrates two Our Lady of China parishes: Chinese and English. The English parish started in this cathedral in only 2007 by Joseph Loftus, and worships every Sunday at 11.30am. Since the beginning of this English speaking parish, Catholic foreigners created a Council and started to run activities such as Charity Ministry, Music Ministry, Youth group, potluck meals and many others. It's also important to mention, that the Xikai English parish has signed up to help the Tianjin Huiling Orphanage.

For the religious (and "not-that-religious") St. Joseph Cathedral is a place to find peace and calm. In a city as fast-paced as Tianjin, people are busy living their lives - renting, selling, buying, working, meeting, and running around. Every once in a while they feel a strong need to stop and be silent, and we know just the place!


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