The elegant and elderly St John’s Cathedral may look a tad out of place among some of the most innovative high-rise buildings in the world, but it has played a symbolic and enduring role in Hong Kong’s history.
As the oldest surviving Western ecclesiastical building in the city, its founding stone was laid by Governor Davis a mere six years after the British took possession of Hong Kong. Since then, the “barren island” ceded to Britain by China in 1841 has become one of the world’s leading centres of trade. St John’s continues to dutifully serve its large Anglican congregation with the skyscrapers of the financial district watching over it.
Throughout the years, St John’s has shared in Hong Kong’s ups and downs, particularly when it suffered damage during the Second World War. On Christmas morning in 1941, a dedicated congregation of 100 gathered for the cathedral’s last mass before Japanese shells rained upon the city. When Hong Kong fell, the cathedral was commandeered by the occupying forces and turned into a club. Many of its congregation were interred and services resumed when the war ended in 1945.
The building you see today was completed in 1849 and extended in 1873. The cross-shaped structure was created in the styles of 13th century Early English and Decorated Gothic.