Throughout Trinidad, there are numerous religious
sites of a variety of faiths reflecting the diversity of the backgrounds of the persons
who have made this island their home. We have divided the religous sites geographically to
make locating them simpler.
The temple in the sea is the culmination of the vision of one man. Returning from India
during World War Two he had a narrow escape from a German torpedo and vowed to build a
temple to thank God for his escape. Siewdass Sadhu repeated sought to erect a temple
on sugar cane land and was prevented from doing so. In fact he completed construction of a
small temple on land but the estate owners broke it down. Eventually in 1947 he began
construction of the temple on land that he reclaimed from the sea, doing the
reclamation by personally carrying the rocks by hand. In all Siewdass Sadhu spent 25
years building it in the sea. Unfortunately the effect of sea erosion prevented Sadhu from
ever completing the structure and he died in 1971 with the structure incomplete. In 1994,
the government created a more permanent artificial island and finished the temple to
commemorate the 150th anniversary of Indian Arrival Day.
The temple is located at the end of the Orange Field Road in Waterloo.
Located at Orange Field Road, Carapachaima, this place of worship
is dedicated to Dattatreya, the Hindu trinity. Admission to the complex is
free and it is open from 6 am to 12 noon and 5 pm to 8 pm Monday to Friday; and from 6 am
to 12 noon and 4 pm to 8 pm on Saturday and Sunday. On its pink exterior walls are
numerous small statues carved into the walls, while inside are several murties.
The structure, which took two years to complete, was built according to the Dravidian
style of architecture which flourished in India between the 12th and 14th century.
Fourteen stonemasons were specially flown in from India and worked alongside local
artisans in order to create the filigree ornaments and the life-sized elephant statues on
the entrances of the meditation centre. Inside the main mandir are smaller mandirs
dedicated to Dattatreys, Lord Shiva and the Mother Goddess.
The inner roof of the entrance foyer has exquisite paintings and
statuettes. Photography is permitted on the outside but not allowed inside. Visitors are
expected to show reverence by removing their shoes before walking inside. Cold drinks and
snacks are on sale.
This 85 foot statue is reputed to be the largest such statue outside of India and was
consecrated in 2003. It is on the grounds of the Dattatreya
Yoga Center and Mandir at Orange Field Road, Carapachaima. Inside the Hanuman murti
there is a smaller Hanuman murti.
Hannuman was the best warrior and he protected the gods from evil powers. He stands for
faith, friendship, strength and the willingness to make sacrifices. The significance of
the height is to symbolise that all devotees should grow in height spiritually.
There is another larger than life Hanuman murti
on the grounds of the Diego Martin SWAHA temple.
The Charlieville Highway Mosque, lying alongside the Uriah Butler
Highway on the outskirts of Chaguanas is a beautiful building that allows us to see many
aspects of Islamic architecture.
The term mosque derives from the Arabic word "masjid" which means prostration
and prostration forms a significant part of Islam. The Koran requires that the ritual of
prayer (salat) be performed five times a day. Prayer can be done anywhere but must be done
in a congregation on a Friday. Salat consists of recitations from the Koran accompanied by
a series of movements standing, bowing, sitting, kneeling and prostrating. Because
of the movements, the interior of mosques is usually empty with little or no chairs. The
floor covering is almost always carpets which serve to deaden the sound of footsteps and
so preserve an atmosphere of quiet while enhancing the beauty of the interior. The walls
within the mosque have few items, except for possibly Arabic calligraphy, so Muslims in
prayer are not distracted.
The prophet Mohammad ordered his followers to mount the highest roof in their
neighbourhood and call the faithful to their devotions. As a result of this invocation,
the minaret evolved, from which the call to prayer (adhan) could be given by the muezzin.
On the roof of the masjid can be seen to minarets on either side.
In Islam, the dome signifies heaven and the central feature of the roof is the large
dome. The popular Muslim conception of Paradise is that it is divided into several
celestial levels, awarded according to the degree of righteousness achieved during one's
mortal lifetime. The first heaven is the one that is closest to the earth. So the order
begins from the earth and the highest heaven is the seventh heaven. Further according to
Muslim tradition, the Prophet Muhammad ascended into the seven heavens during his lifetime
in Jerusalem, either physically or spiritually, and came into direct contact with the
divine. On the roof of this mosque, one will note that there are seven domes.
On the front of the building, in the centre, can be seen a niche in the wall, which is
the mihrab. The mihrab always points to the east, the direction of Mecca, the birthplace
of the prophet. This niche is an important acoustic feature for the interior of the mosque
as it allows the voice of the imam to resonate within the mosque.
The first Anglican Church, known simply as the Trinity Church, was a
modest wooden building on the corner of Prince and Frederick streets. In 1808, a great
fire swept through the city, destroying every public building, including the church. In
1809 the British Crown granted money for the construction of a new church. The
construction was started in Brunswick Square (now Woodford Square but there were objections
from the public resulting in a halt to the construction.
On May 30, 1816, the cornerstone of the Trinity Cathedral was laid in
its current location on 30A Abercromby Street, Port of Spain. Architecturally, the
Cathedral reflects the late Georgian style mixed with Gothic, as well as elements of the
Victorian age. The layout was designed by the Colonial Secretary, Philip Reinagle. The
magnificent hammer-beam roof is made of local wood and characterized by huge trusses. The
altar is built entirely of selected local mahogany and backed by alabaster and marble
mounted on a base of Portland stone. The stained glass windows showcase magnificent
representations of the saints. The Cathedral is filled with interesting historical items
such as the marble statue dedicated to former Governor and founder of the Church, Sir
Ralph Woodford. Along the walls inside the Cathedral are Tablets placed "in
the memory of" former members of the British elite of colonial days.
There are tours of the Cathedral, on Tuesdays and Thursdays which cost $10, and begin
at 8.30 am and 1.30 pm.
St John's London Baptist Church is located at 8 Pembroke Street in Port
of Spain, next to the Port of Spain City Hall. London Baptists first came to Trinidad at
the end of the American War of Independence with the negro soldiers who were transported
to Trinidad in 1815 in exchange for helping the British in the war.
The cornerstone of the church was laid in 1853 and the church opened for
worship in March 1854. In 1882 the church was enlarged. The original Manse built in 1845
still stands and is now the church office.
Construction of the Holy Rosary Church began in 1892. The design of the
church is in the Gothic revival style. Its vaulted ceilings in the main aisle and the
lower ceilings of the side aisles form the shape of a cross. The stained glass lancet
windows came from Toulouse, France and the stone blocks for the exterior of the building
came are blue limestone from the Laventille quarries.
In 1829 Abbé Francis de Ridder purchased land that the
church and schools currently stand on. He was a free coloured priest in Trinidad at a time
when the first civil governor, Sir Ralph Woodford, had been imposing restrictions upon the
coloured population. His work and independence challenged the colonial establishment. In
the political struggle for justice that ensued, the site of the Holy Rosary Church was the
free coloured headquarters in Port-of-Spain.
The Holy Rosary Church was considered the last French enclave in a predominately
British Port-of-Spain. Because Trinidad was a British Crown Colony, french culture was
being systematically dismantled. The finance for building came directly from the mainly
french creole parishioners and as a result the progress of the project depended entirely
on their fortunes. It took almost fifty years of hard work for this beautiful building to
be completed and blessed in 1939, plus a further forty years for it to be consecrated in
Belmont is a suburb of Port of Spain lying on the eastern side of the city at the foot of
the Laventille Hills. It is an area known for narrow streets and winding lanes with houses
sitting close together. Belmont's development really began in the 1840's and 1850's when
the British Royal Navy started stopping illegal slave ships and rescuing the captured
Africans who were on these ships. These rescued Africans then began settling in Belmont
which was at the time was on the outskirts of the city's boundary. In the 1880's
and 1890's the population of Belmont increased significantly as the black
professional class began to build large homes in the area. Many of these homes survive to
the present either as residences or business places and Belmont is one area in Trinidad
where it is easy to see the varied architectural styles of the late 19th and early 20th
century. Two of the buildings that reflect the architectural styles of that period are the
St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church and the St Margaret's Anglican Church, both of which
are located on Belmont Circular Road.
In 1856 Charles Warner donated two lots of land on Belmont Circular Road to the Anglican
Church for the construction of a church and school. In 1860 four lots next to the site
were purchased by the church. The original building was a wooden church and in 1890 the
foundation stone for a brick church was laid with construction being completed by December
1891. St Margaret's is a pretty stone church with its tall steeple and the headstones of
the graves crowding around the church on three sides. Thanks to the foresight of the early
church members in acquiring the additional land, the church is set back from the road.
Within the church there is a magnificent stained glass window representing Margaret of
Antioch that was installed in 1906. In the 1980's two new stained glass windows were added
on either side of the main window. These new windows were done by the Trinidadian stained
glass artist Mike Watson and show children of every race singing the praises of God,
Yoruba drummers invoking Him, an African man offering a bunch of bananas and an Indian
woman picking a hibiscus flower.
St Francis of Assisi in Belmont is another of Trinidad's beautiful church buildings and is
one of two Catholic churches in Trinidad that was named after St Francis. The other St Francis of Assisi church is located in Erin.
The Belmont church is constructed of local limestone, most likely from the quarries that
operated in Laventille. In 1865 a church and school were constructed on the site but with
the expanding population of Belmont at the turn of the century it was decided to construct
a new church. Thus in 1902 construction of the present church was completed. In addition
to the limestone walls the interior pillars are of granite from Aberdeen Scotland.
Tranquility Methodist Church is located on the corner of Victoria Avenue and Tragarete
Road in Port of Spain. This church is part of the National Trust of historic buildings. In
1796 the first Methodists came to Trinidad as Wesleyan missionaries. They established a
church in Port of Spain using rented premises. The church members however wanted a
building of their own and so in 1870 they acquired the land on which the church presently
sits. After much saving the foundation stone of the church was laid in 1886 with the
church being completed in April 1886. Then in January 1906, cornerstone of the present
building was laid. This church has survived an earthquake in 1954 and a fire in 1984 and
continues to be a place of comfort for the weary soul.
Trinidad is not usually thought of as an island with significant limestone
but yet there are large limestone beds. The Northern Range of Trinidad has extensive beds
of limestone known as the Maraval formation that run through the the entire range from
Diego Martin to Toco. These limestone beds cause the flat areas in many of the Northern
Range valleys. Many of the early churches in the Port of Spain area were constructed using
limestone with much of the limestone coming from quarries in Laventille.
Laventille is located on the eastern side of Port
of Spain and the name reflects the French influence on Trinidad. The northeast trade winds
come over the Laventille hills and then onto Port of Spain. The name was therefore given
to the area because it was considered The Vent (La Ventaille)
through which the winds blew. The Laventille area had several quarries, with two of these
being the Eastern Quarry and Jeremy Quarry that are situated on Picton Hill to the east
and west of Fort Picton respectively. Another quarry in the area was called the
Piccadilly Quarry. Due to the close proximity of Laventille to Port of Spain, the stone
from these quarries was widely used for construction.
In addition to the Laventille limestone, ballast bricks were often used especially for outlining the
windows. The huge sailing ships that came from Europe while bringing manufactured goods
could not completely fill their holds with goods because of the small size of the island's
population and so filled their hulls with the bricks to be used as ballast. In sailboats
ballast is used to help the boat resist the lateral forces on the sail as insufficiently
ballasted boats will tend to tip, or heel, excessively in high winds and too much heel may
result in the boat capsizing. Once the ships arrived in Trinidad the ballast bricks
were unloaded and used for local building needs while the ships took the locally produced
rum, sugar, cocoa, cotton back to Europe. To hold the rocks and bricks together, the
cement was often a mortar made from sand, limestone and molasses.
The initial spanish settlers of Trinidad were all of the Catholic faith. When the
Cedula de Populacion, which allowed French settlers into Trinidad, was introduced in 1783,
one of the conditions for entry was that the immigrant had to be Catholic. As such when
the British captured Trinidad in 1797, the majority of the population was non-english
speaking. In order to cater for English speaking Catholics, Sacred
Heart Church was constructed in 1882.
This church which is located on the corner of Richmond Street and Sackville Street in
Port of Spain was constructed using limestone from the Laventille Quarries. Many aspects
of it design give the impression of a medieval fort with towers and battlements. The Photo Gallery has
additional pictures that show these features.
The St Ann's Roman Catholic Church is
another of the stone churches of Trinidad. Located in the suburb of St Ann's on St Ann's
Avenue (just after the Chinese Association building), it was constructed in 1861.
On first hearing the name, The St. Ann's
Church of Scotland, many persons would think that this church is located in the suburb
of Port of Spain now called St Ann's. In fact this church is located on the corner of
Charlotte Street and Oxford Street in Port of Spain. The church derived its name
because in 1854 when the church was built, Charlotte Street was called Rue St. Anns (St
This church was created by Portuguese
Presbyterian immigrants who fled from Catholic religious persecution in Madeira and
arrived in Trinidad on 16th of September 1846. In Madeira the Catholics had
burned their schools and destroyed their vineyards. As a result of the violence against
them, these Presbyterians had been almost forced to run to the harbour, where there
happened to be ships that had come for other Portuguese immigrants to Trinidad and
St Vincent. The first group was 197 persons and in all approximately 600 Portuguese
Presbyterians came to Trinidad. Many of these first Portuguese Presbyterian
immigrants were destitute when they arrived in Trinidad as a result of the
haste with which they left Madeira. Unfortunately they were snubbed by the other Madeirans
in Trinidad who were Catholic. They were assisted by Greyfriars Church on Frederick Street
and St John's Baptist Church in Port-of-Spain. In 1854
under the leadership of Reverend Henrique Vieira they constructed their own church. In
1894, the church was enlarged using Laventille limestone and ballast
bricks. over the years the church has been known by several names, The Portuguese
Church, the United Free Church and the United Kirk.
The Port-of-Spain Hindu Mandir also known as Paschim Kaashi (Benares of
the West) is situated on Ethel Street in St. James. Within its walls are the most
beautiful murtis (idols) imported from India made especially for the Mandir. A manicured
garden exists to provide the fresh flowers used for worship and it contains trees that
have been sacred to Hindus for thousands of years.
At the back of the Mandir there
is a cultural centre containing classrooms where dance, music,craft and Hindi are taught.
The Mandir is open to all visitors. The main Mandir is open for worship
on Sundays at 8:00 am and 6:00pm and other visits may be made during the week by
telephoning the caretaker at 868-622- 4949. Visits by tour groups must be arranged in
In the 19th century St. James was a cane farming area
peopled by indentured Indian immigrants. It was their dream to erect a structure of which
they could be proud. This took place in 1963 when construction began of Port of Spain's
first Hindu Mandir or temple. All the major Hindu families living in St. James in the
early fifties became actively involved. Many prominent members of the Port of Spain Hindu
community assisted in this construction effort.
Local architect John Newel Lewis designed the original structure utilizing Trinidad
architectural concepts of a city temple making the Mandir uniquely Trinidadian Hindu and
not a Mandir of India. Within the compound there is a Kali Mandir that again reflects a
Trinidadian approach in that the architect was Chinese, the builder Muslim and the
craftsmen African and Indian. Inside can be seen the inspired work of Ken Morris.
Most of the middle aged and older persons in Trinidad will be familiar with the phrase
"as cool as Gookool", though many may not know what gave rise to the phrase. In
1853, a six year old boy called Modhoo came to Trinidad from Kashmir as the son of
indentured laborers, however within 3 months of arrival his mother died of malaria and he
was adopted by a Hindu family who gave him the name Gookool. When he was older he was
indentured at the Concord Estate in Pointe-à-Pierre. After his indentureship he purchased
a donkey cart and made a living hauling sugar cane to the factory at Usine Saint Madeline.
After a few years he sold his cart and established a shop in Danglade Village on the road
to San Fernando. Next he went into cocoa cultivation, establishing one of the early cocoa
plantations in the Diego Martin valley. From cocoa he moved on the real estate, becoming
one of the major landlords in Port of Spain. He also established himself as a cinema
magnate, opening the Metro cinema in Port of Spain which he later renamed the Globe Cinema
and eventually operating a string of five cinemas in Port of Spain and San Fernando. The
phrase "cool as Gookool" arose because in the face of the racial prejudice that
existed in Trinidad at the time, Gookool conducted his business with an icy calm.
With his icy calm and business acumen, Gookool eventually became a millionaire. Throughout
his life, Gookool Meah maintained his devotion to the Muslim faith and in 1922, he made
the pilgrimage to Mecca which gave him the title Haji (one who has made the Haj). In 1927,
Haji Gookool Meah decided to build a mosque and constructed the mosque that exists on the
southern side of the Western Main Road in St James. Upon his death at the age of 92, Haji
Gookool Meah left most of his money (over one million dollars) in a trust fund for the
poor and to to maintain the mosque which had been named after him. That trust fund which
is managed by a bank, continues to this day to maintain the mosque and also to provide for
the poor, the needy and for education.
Many persons rushing through the village of Carenage on their way to and
from Chaguaramas, never notice the little chapel that juts into the sea at St Peters Bay.
This chapel, the entrance to which is located opposite School Street and next to the gas
station, has existed since 1876. Constructed by the people of Carenage under the direction
of their parish priest, Abbe Poujade, the Our Lady of the Sea chapel was at the request of
the local fishermen who wanted spiritual protection. The building is made of stone which
the fishermen collected from nearby bays and transported in their boats to the site.
On the seaward side of the chapel is a large statue of St. Peter, the
patron saint of fishermen. It is doubly symbolic that this statue is placed at this point
because in the 1870's the particular piece of land was merely a rock jutting into the sea
at which fishermen tied their boats. The symbolism arises because of the words of
Christ who in referring to Peter said, "on this rock I will build my church".
After it was first constructed, the chapel which has come to be known as
St Peter's chapel was used often with a regular mass. In particular it was used for the
blessing of the boats at the annual St Peter's Day festival held on the first Sunday after
the 29th of June. Over the years its use declined and the chapel fell into disrepair. In
July 2007, the chapel was restored and blessed by Archbishop Edward Gilbert.
The little chapel is now only used on special occasions. The area around
the chapel is however used by persons seeking spiritual blessings as can be seen by the
numerous burnt candles on the sea walls. The bay in which the chapel sits is a popular
location for baptisms by the Spiritual (Shouter) Baptists.
On the Macqueripe Road in Chaguaramas can be seen the remains of St Chad's
Anglican Church. In 1850, Daniel Cave who was the owner of Mount Pleasant Estate, donated
22,800 square feet of land to the Anglican Church for the construction of a church. The
church was named after Saint Chad who was an English saint. The original church that was
constructed in 1850 was made of wood but after 18 years it fell into a state of disrepair
and had to be demolished. The Church members requested a new church and with the help of
Daniel Cave a new church was finished in 1875. Unfortunately by 1915 this church was again
in a state of decay. Agnes Tucker, who was the wife of the owner of the majority of
estates in Chaguaramas, then pushed for the construction of a new church. By the end of
1915, with the help of the people of Mount Pleasant Village (which was created by the
former slaves after Emancipation who settled on the lands of Mount Pleasant Estate)
and the estate workers a new church was constructed. This church remained in use until the
US Army was given Chaguaramas for use as a military base.
When St Chad's church was constructed it lay between the
grocery and the school. The grocery (though no longer operational) still
appears in good condition because of the refurbishing that was done when
Mount Pleasant Village was used in 2001 to film some of the scenes for the
movie, The Mystic Masseur. Within the church's cemetery can still be seen
several graves. The most prominent grave belongs to Amelia Tripp who was
the daughter of William Tucker and married his business partner, Edgar Tripp.
Mr. Edgar Tripp was the man who installed the first
electricity generating plant in Trinidad. Amelia died
in 1877 at the age of 24 and there are those who say that on a dark night she roams the
roadway but no one has been able to prove it.
At the northern end of the Diego Martin valley, along St Lucien Road
immediately before its intersection with the Diego Martin Main Road, is the SWAHA temple.
Gracing the entrance to the temple is an imposing 25 foot Hanuman murti. While not as
large as the Hanuman statue at the Dattatreya Yoga Center and Mandir at Orange Field Road,
Carapachaima, this murti captures your attention as you drive by or enter the grounds of
Viewing this Hanuman murti provides a nice addition to a trip to this part
of Diego Martin, with the River Estate
Museum nearby and the North Post signal
station a short distance away.
Construction of the present Catholic church in St. Joseph commenced in 1815 and was
completed in 1816. When St Joseph was founded in 1592, one of the first buildings
constructed was a Catholic Church. That church was destroyed in a raid in 1595 by Walther
Raleigh but another church was rebuilt on the same spot. In 1649, the church was again
destroyed in a Dutch raid and again rebuilt on the same spot. In 1815 the wooden church
was replaced by the existing structure, so that the present church stands on the same
location as the original church in the founding of the town in 1592. More information on
St. Joseph can be found on our Other Places of
In countries with a strong Catholic influence, the celebration of the
Stations of the Cross is especially common on the Fridays of Lent, and
recreates Christ's journey to his crucifixion. In Trinidad and Tobago the
most common time to witness the walking of the Stations of the Cross is on
Good Friday when large numbers of individuals make the pilgrimage. The
stations of the cross are usually small concrete crosses painted in
white, symbolizing the moments of Christ suffering on his way to his
crucifixion. These church celebrations are usually accompanied by various
songs and prayers. Several areas of Trinidad have stations of the cross
Mount St Benedict and
In St Joseph, the first capital
of Trinidad, with its early Catholic influence and
first church built in Trinidad by
Don Antonio de Berrio y Oruna, there is a Calvary Hill with the Stations of
the Cross consisting of the usual small white concrete
crosses starting at the foot of the hill. These
crosses lead up the hill and at the top there is
a huge silver cross which was donated and erected in September 1892
by Emilio Gonzalez. This cross is an impressive work of art. The cross is
actually composed of multiple figures and objects sculpted into the frame.
Among the elements that make up the cross are Grapes, Angels, Mary and the
The cross is located on Albert Street just off Abercromby Street. The site
of the cross has a commanding view of the central plains of Trinidad.
Set on a wide flat plain looking up at the rich
green hills of the Maracas valley lies St Michaels Roman Catholic Church. With its
tall steeple standing out as a counterpoint to the luxuriant dark green hills this church
dominates the landscape. From the beginning of its settlement, this valley was home to
numerous agricultural estates. In the 19th century, cocoa and coffee came to be
the main crops and even today in this section of the valley cocoa and coffee are still
abundant. In 1870 on the site of the present church, the mainly Spanish settlers from
Venezuela built a church using wood from the nearby slopes of El Tucuche. By 1890, this
church had to be rebuilt and construction was begun on the present stone and mortar
church. By 1900 the church was completed and the largest church bell in Trinidad installed
in the steeple.
The Jinnah Memorial Mosque sits majestically on the Eastern MainRoad at the entrance to St Joseph and on the outskirts of Curepe. It
is probably the most beautiful of Trinidad's traditional mosques. The roof
with its towers topped with spires and the green topped domes with star and
crescent immediately draws the eye. The Main dome of the mosque is forty
feet in diameter and twenty four feet high, located in the centre of the
building surrounded and crowned by the crescent and star. Four half-domes
form a cluster around the main dome, with a door to each, allowing onlookers
to enter and view the interior of the great dome and the ground floor below.
Six smaller narrow domes capped in green and with needle-like spires stand
at the angles of the hexagonal structure. Set on spacious grounds this
mosque seems to fit perfectly in its surroundings.
Construction of the Jinnah Memorial Mosque was completed in 1954 and it was
named after the founder of Pakistan, Quaid-I-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah. It
was opened on Sunday April 25th 1954 by the Governor, Sir Hubert Rance.
beautiful as it looks now, the construction of this mosque is a tale of hard
work, sacrifice and determination. The mosque is owned by the Trinidad
Muslim League which was created by three individuals, Moulvi Ameer
Ali, Mohammed Hakeem Khan and Mohammed Rafeeq, who founded the League on the
15th of August, 1947, the same day that Pakistan was created. On the 21st of
April, 1950, the Trinidad Muslim League was incorporated by Act of
Parliament as Number 26 of 1950 to represent the Ghair-Mukallid or
Non-Conformist Muslims of Trinidad and Tobago. The league then began to plan
the construction of the mosque and had designs created by the architects,
Mence and Moore. The cost was estimated at thirty-five thousand dollars,
however they did not have sufficient money. As a result they organized a
series of fund raisers involving cinema shows, excursions, tea parties, Eid
collections, bazaars. At one of the Bazaars they introduced "the Money Tree"
at the entrance of the gate, where every member who passed through the gate
contributed their share. Even with these activities there were not
sufficient funds to complete the mosque as the construction costs had
increased, rising to one hundred and twenty five thousand dollars. In a
request for more funds for the construction, the Ladies of the League shed
their gold necklaces, earrings, and rings and gave them to the mosque to
enable the construction to be completed.
Mount St. Benedict is located 800 feet above sea level and a sense of calm descends as
you ascend until upon reaching the Abbey, peace seems to fill your being. Founded in 1912
by monks fleeing religious persecution in Brazil, the monastery is dedicated to the Virgin
Mary under the title Our Lady of Exile. The monastery had very humble beginnings and
expanded over the years. In 1943 the Monastery began a seminary to
prepare young men for the diocesan priesthood. In that same year the Monastery established
a Secondary School. In 1967, a Vocational School was established to teach young
people a skill such as woodwork, bookbinding, plumbing, welding or other technical craft.
The Abbey is located in the Northern Range above the suburb of St.
Augustine and provides a panoramic view of the Central Plains. The Abbey welcomes persons
of all faiths who visit to worship or simply absorb the serenity of the surroundings.
There is a small gift shop and cafeteria where items produced by the monks, such as
yogurt, honey, jams, jellies, bread and coffee, are sold.
In 1916, the Monastery opened Pax Guest House, which is still functional
today and receives bird watchers from around the world. The Abbey sits on a 600 acre
private reserve where the slopes are covered with lush lowland forest. There are various trails through the forest that are favored for birdwatching as a variety of species can be seen that include
hawks, pigeons, hummingbirds, orioles, mockingbirds. A colony of Oilbirds nests in
a cave on the property.
To get to Mount St. Benedict from Piarco International Airport, proceed west on the
Churchill Roosevelt Highway (towards Port of Spain). Turn right into Macoya Road, then
left (west) onto the Eastern Main Road. At the intersection of the Eastern Main Road and
St Johns Road (Scotia Bank is at the corner) turn right onto St. John's Road. Follow St
John's Road up the hill in a northerly direction until the signs for the entrance to the
Abbey. Turn left at the entrance and follow the road to the Abbey. For those travelling
from Port of Spain or areas in the South, along the Eastern Main Road, St John's Road will
be on the left.
It is not often that we see wooden buildings in Trinidad, with the apparent
public preference for concrete and steel. Yet there is a beautiful small wooden church on
the Eastern Main Road on the outskirts of Sangre Grande in Guaico in the area known as
Damarie Hill. Although given the name "Hill" the area is not really a hill but
more of a rise in the road. According to a Trinidad Guardian 1999 article, immigrants from
other West Indian islands, particularly St Vincent and Dominica, migrated to Guaico and
brought with them their custom of giving elevated places where they lived the name
"Hill," and so the name Damarie Hill.
The Morton Memorial Presbyterian Church was established in 1898 by Dr John Morton.
Reverend John Morton, a Minister of the Presbyterian Church of Nova Scotia, Canada, came
to Trinidad to recuperate from illness. During his stay, he visited sugar estates and
seeing the East Indian Community about 20,000, in a state of neglect, he returned to
Canada and asked his Church to initiate a mission to these people. He offered himself as
the pioneer of such a mission. The Canadian Church accepted the challenge. On January 6th,
1868, Reverend Morton, his wife and infant daughter arrived in Trinidad. Morton then began
the work of developing the Presbyterian Church in Trinidad, focusing on the Indian
indentured laborers in Trinidad. The first mission was at Iere Village on the western
outskirts of Princes Town and in time spread throughout Trinidad.
The church at Guaico was built in 1898 and a Primary School was also established.
William Hugh Benjamin from Scotland who had a bakery in Guaico assisted Dr. John Morton,
with the lumber to erect the Morton Memorial Presbyterian Church and the Guaico
Anyone passing through Tacarigua in Trinidad along the Eastern Main Road
cannot help but observe St Mary's Anglican Church with its distinctive
steeple at the intersection of Orange Grove Road and the Eastern Main Road
and opposite Eddie Hart Grounds. This building is reminiscent of the style
of church building often seen in Barbados and this may not be coincidental
as in the early years of Trinidad' s English colonization the Anglican
Church in Trinidad fell under the jurisdiction of the Anglican Church in
Barbados and many of the West Indian born reverends did their theological
studies at Codrington College in Barbados so some of the churches resemble
Barbados Anglican Churches .
In 1826 Reverends J.H. Keston and John Pinder established a missionary
outpost in the Police Station in the village of Tacarigua and there
performed baptisms, marriages and burials plus other church services. By
1841 plans were created for the establishment of a permanent church
building. The creation of the church building was made possible by the
donation of 6 acres of land by the wealthy planter – William H. Burnley,
owner of the Orange Grove Estate and by contributions from ex-slaves and
other planters. An interesting feature of the donations was that although
this was to be an Anglican church many Roman Catholics contributed to its
construction. The foundation stone was laid in 1842 and construction started
and completed in the same year under Reverend I. Hamilton, who was the same
priest that Governor Woodford had used to investigate the conditions in
Manzanilla among the freed Africans. In 1843 the completed building was
consecrated by Bishop Parry.
By 1901 the original wooden building was in need of extensive repairs and so
the majority of the church was rebuilt using local limestone. A beautiful
addition to the rebuilt church was the installation of three stained glass
When the Mission at Arima was
established by the Capuchin the original church was a small
house with thatched roof. The land for the church donated by Christian Robles. In 1786
under the direction of Governor Jose Chacon the church was replaced by a larger structure
built with boulders taken from Calvary Hill by Amerindians. On completion of the new
mission church in 1786 Governor Chacon recognised that 1786 was the 200th anniversary of
the birth of the saint, Santa Rosa de Lima. Rosa de Lima, was not only the first
Amerindian to be made a saint but the first saint of the New World. And so to mark the
anniversary Governor Chacón dedicated the mission church to this saint, making her the
patron saint of Arima.
There is some conjecture surrounding the birth of St Rose.
Some say that she was of Amerindian heritage. Others have said that she was born in Arima
from Spanish parents and went to Peru at the age of two. Yet others have said that she was
born to Spanish parents in Peru in 1586. What is known is that she devoted her life in
Peru to helping the poor and destitute and sick slaves. She died in 1617 and on April 12
1671 was declared a saint.
The Catholic church at Arima has long celebrated the feast of its patron saint, Santa
Rosa with records indicating that this celebration was taking place as early as 1818. A
highlight of the festival is the procession carrying the statue of St. Rose through the
streets of Arima. The Santa Rosa Festival has also long been associated with the
Amerindians. One of the beliefs surrounding how the Amerindians came to be associated with
the festival is that St Rose appeared to a group of Amerindians and told them that in
order to survive they had to accept Christianity. There are also several legends
associated with the statue. One legend is that it was found at the mouth of a cave in
Guanapo and brought to the Church. Another legend is that it was found at an underground
spring in the area now known as Santa Rosa Heights.
Due to its close association with the Amerindians the religious festival has been
expanded and incorporates aspects that highlight our Amerindian heritage. Now often known
as the Santa Rosa Carib Festival it takes place in August - in the week leading up to
Independence Day (August 31). The ceremonies include the crowning of the Carib Queen, an
elder matron of their community who performs the role of focusing their heritage and
traditions; performance of some of the traditional and ritual Amerindian activities -
smoke ceremonies and prayers plus the church procession.
one enters the district of Manzanilla the most prominent structure is the
Mary Magdalene Anglican church sitting between two roads, one leading to
North Manzanilla and the other
leading to the popular Manzanilla Beach.
It is almost as if the church is straddling two worlds and if one looks back
in the history of the area it may in a sense have done that.
Manzanilla during the years of Spanish colonization and in the early years
of British occupation was a remote place with no discernible roads leading
to it, only a forest trail. In 1817, the British Government took a decision
to disband the 6th West India Regiment which was comprised of negro
soldiers. These West India Regiments had come into being in 1796, when the
British Government alarmed at the rapid death of European troops in tropical
climates, had authorized the Commander in Chief of the British Forces in the
West Indies to purchase slaves to serve as fighting troops in the British
Army. From that time until 1808 it is estimated that 13,000 Africans were
bought for service in the Army. With the English Slavery Abolition Act of
1808, the Army could no longer purchase slaves and instead began patrolling
off the coast of West Africa and in the Caribbean and any boat carrying
slaves was seized and the Africans taken into service in the army in the
West India Regiments. In time there were 11 Regiments of approximately 600
men each. When the decision was taken to begin disbanding some of the
regiments, the white planters in all the islands, except Trinidad, objected
to these men being allowed to settle in their islands because they were
afraid of black men who had been trained to carry arms and fight. Governor
Ralph Woodford however took these men and settled them in Manzanilla with
each single man receiving 8 acres and married men receiving 16 acres. One of
the conditions however imposed on these men was that they were to construct
and maintain a road from Arima to Manzanilla. In 1822, these former soldiers
were joined by some members of the 3rd West India Regiment. Both groups
actually met another group of negro soldiers who had fought alongside the
British in the American war of 1812 and who had been settled in the area
in 1815 and 1816.
In 1839 Governor Sir Henry Macleod sent Reverend J.N. Hamilton from St
Mary's Church in Tacarigua to inspect the conditions in Manzanilla. Reverend
Hamilton in his report stated that "many of them are nominally Mohammedans
(Moslems/Muslims) and under the guidance of five so called Mandingo
The Mary Magdalene Anglican Church was established during the time of the
Anglican Bishop Thomas Hayes who came to Trinidad in 1889. It may have been
that the Bishop had decided that it was time to impose a Christian outpost
in this area, thus having the church straddle two worlds. The Church was
made part of the parish of St. Bartholomew which had been established in
1848 and included Mayaro, Nariva, Toco & the settlement of Manzanilla, (it
is now part of the parish of St. Faith).By
1996 however the church was virtually desolate. Fortunately under the
direction of Father Ronald Clifford Warrick Branche the church was restored
and stained glass windows placed to the top. In July 1999, St Mary Magdalene
Around 1731 Catholic Capuchin priests from Aragon in Spain established a mission in
Toco. As part of the mission they built a church on a slight hill overlooking the sea.
Over time the village that developed around the church came to be called Mission Village,
which name it bears up to this day. In 1830, the Catholic Church made Toco a parish
and built a new church on the same spot as the original church established in 1731. This
church was called Our Lady of the Assumption Church at Mission Village. Today this church
still sits on the hill ministering to those in the village that it gave its name plus
those who come to camp on the nearby beach.
The first structure for what is currently known as the mother church of the Roman
Catholic Archdiocese in San Fernando was a wooden building built in 1823 by Father Onesime
Christophe of Guadaloupe. As San Fernando was not yet a town, in fact it was not even
called San Fernando but rather Petit Bourg, the church was served by a priest who came
from Princes Town, which at the time was called Savanna Grande. There was an Amerindian
mission at Savanna Grande which was organised and managed by Capuchin missionary priests.
According to Anthony de Verteuil in his book, The Black Earth of South Naparima, in
1826 the situation was reversed and a priest named Father Tabando was based in San
Fernando and journeyed to Savanna Grande to look after the Indians. In 1840 the foundation
was laid for a new church. This large hard-wood church was completed in 1849 along what is
called Harris Promenade. As French was
widely spoken at the time, the church was called "Notre Dame de Bons Secours".
(Our Lady of Good Help).
That structure was demolished and rebuilt in 1950 by Father Sabastien Webber, a
Benedictine monk. The current structure was dedicated in June, 1975. The tower of the
present church contains one of the largest clocks in TT measuring eight feet in diameter.
It has been in the church since the building was constructed in the 1950s. The
original clock had a manual winding system but was eventually converted to an electrical
system by Victor Vivian Gormandy.
While the clock may be the first item that strikes your eye when looking at the church
you eventually see the large statue of Jesus on the Cross positioned at the front of the
church in the Garden. Within the church are statues along the inner walls for stations of
the cross while the high vaulted ceilings and stained glass windows create a peaceful
The Krishna Mandir on Todd Street in San Fernando is a beautiful sight with
its spires and ornamentation on the walls. It is
especially beautiful in the late afternoons when the rays of the sun strike
the white walls of the Mandir and burnish the gold highlights on the walls.
The decision to construct a temple in this area was made in 1951 and Mr
Bisram Gopie, an employee of the sugar estate at Usine St Madeline, appealed
to his employers for the land on which to build the
temple. His employers agreed to lease fifteen thousand square feet of land
to the Gandhi Seva Sangh who were was the governing body for the Mandir at
the time . Funds were raised from the community and a temporary Ashram was
erected. The operation of the temple required financial support and the
women‘s group of the temple was the backbone of the support for the Mandir,
they organized numerous fundraisers which contributed substantially to
repairs and painting of the Mandir, repairs of furniture, electrical and
plumbing fittings, and payment of the water, building taxes and electrical
bills. In 1981 it was decided that the original Mandir had to be rebuilt
because of problems with the original building and through the support of
well -wishers and donors and members, a new building was created.
One of the noticeable features of this Mandir is that the murtis are
positioned at the front of the Temple. These murtis were installed at
various times after the construction of the new temple; in June 1987 the
lord Krishna, Ganesh and Vishnu murtis were installed, September 1987 Durga
and Shiva, February 1988 Shiva Lingam, October 1988 Lakshmi and Saraswati
and May 1989, Hanumanji. Subsequently, and under the guidance of many
pundits, all the murtis were repositioned, at the front of the Mandir.
The Treveni Mandir is an impressive site, sitting on a hill with spires reaching for
the sky and manicured lawns spread around. This large temple complex is truly beautiful
with detailed workmanship. Located on Sisters Road in the village of Hardbargain, the mandir is sometimes
called the Sisters Road Hindu Temple. The name Triveni was given to the mandir
because it was the meeting place of three villages, Sisters Road, St. Julien and
Dyers Village and in India the meeting point of three sacred rivers, the Ganga, Jamuna and
Saraswati was called Triveni.
Looking at the Triveni Mandir today one cannot help but be impressed by the devotion
and dedication that ultimately led to the creation of this magnificent complex. Especially
when you consider that the original group was created in 1946 and it was not until 1948
that a small wooden structure was erected on the site using wood that the men cut from the
surrounding forest. In 1970 work on a larger structure was started and completed in 1974.
In 1992 an upgrade to the building was done and then in 2001the entire complex was rebuilt
with the work ending in 2003.
The Triveni mandir can be reached by taking the Gasparillo Exit from the Solomon Hochoy
Highway and then travelling along the Bonaventure Main Road. One can also get to the
temple by using the Guaracara Tabaquite Road and going through Williamsville.
St Stephens Anglican Church lies at the western entrance to Princes Town and has
both religious and historical significance. To understand its historical significance we
have to go back to the start of recorded civilization in this area. The year was 1687 and
in October of that year, the Catholic Catalan Capuchin friars established a mission for
the Amerindians at this location that was called La Mission de Savanna Grande. The name
was given because the area around this mission is composed of rolling plains and hence was
considered big savannahs. As the years progressed, Savanna Grande or simply Mission as it
was sometimes called, grew in size even though its Amerindian population decreased
markedly. This growth was partly caused by the establishment of the "Company Villages" nearby and also
by the development of large sugar cane estates on the surrounding plains. As a result of
these estates, the first railway was established with a tramway running from Savanna
Grande to San Fernando with horse and mule drawn carriages.
Even in the early years of its existence Savanna Grande experienced a tourist trade as
it lay directly along the path of those going to visit the Devils Woodyard mud volcano. It
was this tourist trade that led to a high point in the life of Savanna Grande. In January
1880, two grandsons of Queen Victoria were in Trinidad and the Governor at the time, Henry
Irving, took them to see the mud volcano. As they were passing St. Stephens Church,
Reverend Knight begged them to plant two poui trees to mark their historic visits. The two
princes agreed and planted the trees in the churchyard. In honour of the visit the name of
the village was henceforth changed to Princes Town.
St Stephens Church still stands at the entrance to the town and in the yard can
still be seen two poui trees brightening our day with their yellow flowers in the dry
As one drives along the Southern Main Road on the southern side of Chaguanas in the
village of Edinburgh, Trinidad, you pass a continuous stream of small commercial
establishments. Suddenly in the midst of this conglomeration of houses and businesses
there sits a majestic structure of predominantly white, the Edinburgh Hindu Tempe. This
beautiful structure is a scene of serenity in the midst of commercial chaos and it is
uncanny how even though cars are passing one gets a sense of calm from being at the
temple. The land for this temple was donated by the owners of the Woodford Lodge sugar
estate in 1920 and a small mandir was constructed. Then in 1983, under the guidance of
pundit Ramesh Tiwari, the Edinburgh Hindu Temple was reconstructed into the present
Although at first the overall white colour catches your
attention, your eyes are soon drawn to the colourful symbolic tile work that graces the
outer walls. As you look more closely at the outer walls one also begins to discern the
figures and patterns that have been moulded into the brickwork. Raising your eyes to the
heavens reveals the domes that are on the roof of the building. Each of the domes is
ornamented with other figures but it is the northern dome that draws your eyes as it is
ornamented with figures of Lords Shiva, Ganesh and Hanuman.
The interior of the mandir is air-conditioned and there are marble murtis arranged in
Hanuman, believed to be an avatar of Lord Shiva and the
mighty ape that aided Lord Rama in his expedition against evil forces, is
worshiped as a symbol of physical strength, perseverance and devotion in the
Hindu religion. There are several Hanuman murtis in Trinidad with two of the
most colorful being at Diego Martin and
Hanuman is shown as either standing or sitting but now at the Todd's Road
Hindu Temple in Caparo we have Hanuman depicted in a flying position. The
flying Hanuman is based on the incident in the Ramayan where Hanuman carried
the mountain with the Sanjeevani Herb to save the life of Lakshman, the
younger brother of Lord Ram, who was struck and rendered unconscious by the
arrow of Indrajit, son of Ravana. At the Todd's Road Temple Hanuman is shown
holding a mountain in his left hand.
This Murti which is 12 feet long, 24 feet high and weighs two and a half
tons flies twenty feet above the ground. It was commissioned by Mr.
Harrinarine Persad Managing Director of Harry Persad and Sons Limited. The
statue was designed and constructed by a Trinidadian sculptor, Marlon
Emmons, who worked for seven months on the project. The Todd's Road Hindu
Temple is a small temple in the midst of a rural former agricultural village
and the statue is dedicated to Basso Persad from her son Harry Persad.
The Flying Hanuman Statue is very easy to find as one
takes the Brasso Caparo Road from Longendenville and proceed for approx 9
minutes to the Todd's Station Road leading to Talparo and turn left onto
this road and then go for 2 minutes and turn left on Fletcher Road. The
temple is on Fletcher Road. It is especially easy to visit this statue if
you are going along this route to visit other attractions in central
Trinidad such as Knolly's Tunnel.
The picturesque village of Tortuga sits on the highest
point of the Central Range. It is a poignant spot. One of the oldest and most charming
churches can be found on this pretty crest. From its cusp, the city of San Fernando and
the oil refineries that represent the cogs that drive the nation's economy lie in clear
view. The distance makes them seem almost pretty and it is possible to romanticise the
slash of flame on the horizon.
Tortuga church, as it is commonly known, is the Catholic church of Our Lady of
Montserrat built in 1872. This church is best known for its recent restoration work.
The church had fallen into disrepair and many of its
original stained-glass panes depicting biblical scenes were in danger of being lost
forever. Elton Rostant, Karen de Verteuil, George de Verteuil, Monica Clement, Simone
Taylor, Yvonne Rostant, Clares Batholomew, Franklyn Lee Sam, and Joseph Rostant were the
dedicated committee members that worked tirelessly to bring this church built by French
priest and architect Fr Marie Jules Dupoux back to its former glory. The end result is
something of remarkable beauty.
The restoration of the stained-glass panes was begun in 1991. Mike Watson, the talented
craftsman who discovered their existence in 1985, began the meticulous process of
restoration in an attempt to preserve the panes before they sucuumbed to further damage.
The windows originally came from renowned atelier Henri-Louis Victor Gesta.
Gesta was the son of Louis Victor Gesta, owner of the 19th centurys largest
stained glass window manufacturing firm in the world. The windows, depicting biblical
scenes, were made in Toulouse, France, between 1880 and 1890 but were damaged by tropical
storm Alma in 1974.
Mike Watson sadly passed away before his work could be
completed. His baton was taken over by the committee with Simone Taylor taking an especial
interest in the restoration of the windows.
The rear entrance of the church is reached by climbing rickety wooden stairs that open
onto a side room that is the shrine to the much beloved Black Virgin of Montserrat. This
Virgin is said to have been brought to the church by early Capuchin monks. She is swathed
in a shiny white dress and holds her infant Jesus close to her breast. Her altar is dotted
with fresh flowers. I found an excellent article by Paria
Publishing online that gives a comprehensive history of this unique madonna.
The view from the churchyard cemetery is serene and peaceful. It overlooks the central
plains and is a reminder of how much of Trinidad's beautiful countryside is still
undeveloped. In its heyday, this was prime cocoa land and many fortunes were made and lost
on the plains of Gran Couva. The cocoa grown in this soil is still recognized as the one
of the most superior in the world.
In addition to the beautiful stained-glass windows, the Stations of the cross in this
church are unique in that the captions below each image are all in French.
The overall effect is beautiful. The beautifully rendered
images delivered in French reminds of the strong French Creole influence of the French
cocoa planters of the 19th century.
This church has an extraordinary atmosphere. Yes, there is the overwhelming beauty of
the stained glass but there is also a palpable energy that radiates from the Black Virgin.
This mixes in with the French Stations of the Cross and captures the complicated
relationships that must have been a way of life for the cocoa farmers and their estate
workers. I imagined how many planters would have come to this church seeking redemption or
reprieve during the crash of cocoa. Just to add a sense of drama, the distant flares of
the Pointe-a-Pierre refinery couldn't be more apt. As the old poeple say, after one time,
The information on Tortuga RC Church was kindly provided by Sharon Millar who writes
the blog My Chutney
The 100 year old St Vincent Ferrer Church, which is
located at the beachfront in Gran
Chemin is the most imposing structure in Moruga. The church tower can be
seen from a great distance at sea and indeed that was the intention when
this church was constructed in 1908, with the tower to be a beacon drawing
the fishermen home.
In the early 1900's, Moruga was an agricultural area all but cut off from
the rest of Trinidad by the difficult land journey to get from the area to
Princes Town, taking almost a day to complete. It was an area fronted by the
sea and then encircled by forests with the main human contact being among
those persons who lived in the village and with principally agricultural
holdings the majority of individuals lived in a dispersed manner. There was
an original church built of Tapia and between 1876-1906, there had been
three other priests who did not live in Moruga but traveled to conduct
masses in the quiet village. Then in 1906 the first resident parish priest
was appointed for Moruga, Father Joseph Emmanuel Vessing.
Fr Vessing soon developed a vision for the church that he wanted Moruga to
have. As a result the priest wrote
George Brown, who was
the manager of hardware and construction at Trinidad Shipping and Trading
Company, asking to purchase materials on credit. There was an agreement
dated November 26, 1907, between the Trinidad Shipping and Trading Company
and Fr Vessing for the construction of the church at a cost of $7,200. Many
of the wealthy planters of the area agreed to contribute money to cover the
cost of the construction. Construction started in February 1908 and because
he was driven to ensure its completion, Fr Vessing took on the role of
managing the construction, completing the church building in November 1908.
Unfortunately when the church was completed, many who had promised to
contribute reneged on their promise and the church was saddled with the
debt. According to Anthony de Verteuil in his book Temples of Trinidad, the
priest overcome by the loneliness of Moruga and the pressure of the debt
resigned from the church in 1911, left the priesthood and went to live in
New York. Eventually after many years the debt for the construction of the
church was repaid.
Mount Elvin Baptist Church sits quietly on a
little knoll off Hindustan Road on the outskirts of New Grant in southern
Trinidad. It is an unpretentious church and yet it can be considered the
epicenter of the Baptist religion in Trinidad and Tobago. This church was
established in 1816 and the significance of that date has to do with the
settlement of the "Merikens" in Trinidad in that year.
In 1816 demobilized Africans who had served in the British Army during the
War of 1812 between the British and the Americans were settled in what came
to be known as the Company
Villages. According to A.B. Huggins in his book "the Saga of the
Companies" the term "Merikens" arose because these individuals could not
properly pronounce the letter A in American. John McNish Weiss in his paper
"The Corps of Colonial Marines" says that these "Merikin" soldiers were
slaves in the USA who were promised their freedom if they fought for the
British. Recruited by the British first in Marylandand Virginiaand later in Georgia, they were a fighting unit much praised for valor
and discipline. When the British Army companies left for home in April 1815,
the six Black companies became the 3rd Battalion Colonial Marines,
garrisoned in Bermuda on Ireland Island. They did garrison duty and worked
as artisans and labourers in the building of the
new Royal Naval Dockyard in Bermuda. When transfer to the West India
Regimentswas proposed the men rejected the idea. Their persistent
intransigence finally led the British government to offer to place them in
Trinidad as independent farmers. On accepting the offer they left Bermuda on
15 July 1816.The first group of 71 settled in Dunmore Hill and Mount Elvin
while the second group of 72 settled in Indian Walk.
These were religious people who followed the Baptist religion practiced in
the southern United States. Although there were no clergymen among them
there were 5 men who were described as Anabaptist preachers who held Sunday
ceremonies. One of these men was known as Brother Will Hamilton. In 1808 the
London Missionary Society (Baptist) sent workers to Guyana and Tobago and in
1809 one of them, Thomas Adam, relocated to Trinidad. He and later Reverend
George Cowen while working on the establishment of
St John's Baptist Church in Port of Spain
also gave assistance to these African-American ex-slaves who were practicing
a version of the Baptist faith. In time, the similarities of the religion
led to the adoption of the missionaries’ version of the Baptist faith that
came to be called in Trinidad, London Baptist. Over time however, according
to Ashram Stapleton in his book "The Birth and Growth of the Baptist Church
in Trinidad and Tobago", there developed a schism as some persons in the
church wanted certain African practices included and the London Missionary
Society frowned on those practices. Eventually these persons left the church
and were first called the "Disobedient Baptists" and finally the Spiritual
or Shouter Baptist. Other differences within the London Baptists then led to
further variations of the Baptist religion with the development of the
Independent Baptists and the Fundamental Baptists.
So today the Mount Elvin Baptist church sits quietly on its knoll,
overlooking the fields that these African American ex-slaves toiled in and
created, continuing in its adherence to the London Baptist version but
having spawned the entire Baptist religion in Trinidad.
Tableland, located between Princes Town and Rio Claro, is a quiet village that does not
often appear in the news, yet Tableland is home to what is reputed to be the oldest Hindu
temple in Trinidad and the second oldest Hindu temple in the Western Hemisphere. In the
early 1900's Mahant Moose Bhagat Dass, an indentured labourer who had migrated from Bharat
desh in India to Trinidad, removed some stones from a river that ran through a small
estate near his home and placed the stones in the yard of his home. Sometime after Mahant
Moose Bhagat Dass claimed that Lord Shiva appeared to him in a dream and told him that in
removing the stones from the river he had disturbed Lord Shiva's resting place. In order
therefore to make up for his actions, Mahant Dass then began construction of a temple
which was completed in 1904.
That temple remains to this day in its original location at the side of the Mahant Dass
home with his descendants looking after the maintenance of the building. On its walls are
numerous murals depicting various Hindu gods. The temple is easily found as it is on the
northern side of the Naparima Mayaro Road on the outskirts of Tableland village before the
Police Station. The temple was originally a family temple however over time it was
extended on the side to accommodate villagers. Within the temple two shrines were
constructed, one to Lord Shiva and the other to Lord Rama. Within the shrine to Lord Shiva
are the original stones whose removal caused the construction of the temple.
Mayaro is one of the areas in Trinidad that was originally settled by the
Amerindians. In 1783, the Spanish Governor, Jose Chacon, signed the Cedula de Populacion
that led to an increase in the population of the island with an influx of French settlers.
Chacon gave land in Mayaro to some of these settlers. A Catholic Church was built in 1819.
The Church of St Peter & St Paul was constructed on land donated by
Alphonse Ganteaume who was a descendant of Pierre Nicholas Ganteaume who had fled from
Martinique in 1793 as a result of the French Revolution and attempting to get to
Venezuela, washed ashore at Mayaro.
This church has become a landmark in Mayaro and the area known as Church
Road in Radix Village. Generally a quiet church but at holiday time during July &
August and especially at Easter, the church fills as vacationers attend the service. This
church with its high vaulted wooden ceiling beams encourages one to take time for peaceful
The beaches at Mayaro are popular for
bathing and the Church Road area is one of the most popular, with a lifeguard station. It
is also a popular Easter camping location.
The St. Francis of Assisi church was originally established in 1758 and
around this church the village of Erin developed. The
present church was built in 1916, replacing an earlier church from 1876 that had in turn
replaced the first church. The establishment and naming of this church has over the years
resulted in some confusion in terms of the naming of the area, i.e. is the area Erin or
San Francique. The Spanish missionaries who established a mission at this bay for the
conversion of the Amerindians in the area, called the mission church San Francisco. When
the French Catholic settlers began populating the area they called the church, Saint
Francique. When the British conquered Trinidad in 1797 and set about creating a map of
Trinidad, it seems they were either unsure of the real name or sought a compromise and so
labelled the area as San Francique. As a result some people refer to the area as San
Francique while others call the area Erin. There is another church that is also called St
Francis of Assisi and it is located in Belmont.
In the small village of Icacos in the Cedros region
there sits a small beautiful clean looking mosque, clothed in white with green trim. The
presence of this mosque is a further reminder of the multi-ethnic, multi-religious nature
of Trinidad society. The presence of this mosque is also a reminder that the Cedros region
has the second largest Hosay celebration in Trinidad. While Hosay is a Shiite Muslim
tradition, one of the differences with the Cedros religious observance is that many Hindus
and Christians participate in the construction of the tadjahs. All who work to build the
tadjahs (Moslems and Non-Moslems) must observe the fasting and rules of ritual personal
Hosay is an annual parade full of colorful tadjahs in commemoration of the martyrdom of
Hussain (Hussein), the grandson of Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, in the year 680
AD. Hussain's martyrdom at Kerbala in Iraq, which is located about 100 km
(60 mi) southwest of Baghdad, is observed annually by Shiites during Muharram, the
first month of the Islamic lunar calendar. This observance occurs during a different
calendar-month every year because the lunar year is about 11 days shorter than the solar
(Gregorian) year. Thus, the observance arrives about a month earlier every three years,
rotating through the four seasons in 33 years.
The first observance of Hosay in Trinidad has been traced back to 1854, eleven years
after the first indentured laborers arrived from India. The British colonial government
attempted to ban Hosay in 1884 however there were riots on sugar estates as a result of
the ban and approximately 30,000 people defiantly took to the streets for Hosay in Mon
Repos, San Fernando, on Thursday, October 30, 1884. As a result of the shots fired by the
police to disperse the procession, 22 men were killed and another 120 were wounded. That
fateful day is commonly referred to in Trinidad history as the "Hosay Massacre."
The main parade of tadjahs takes place on the 10th day of Muharram; this day
is called Aashura. Aashura is the "Day of Atonement" for all
Muslims and was observed long before the martyrdom of Hussain which, coincidentally,
occurred on the same day. The three days preceding Aashura are also filled with parades.
On the 13th day of Muharram (Teejah Day), at around 6pm the tadjahs are
taken to the sea where a short prayer is said and then the tadjahs are placed in the water
where they eventually sink beneath the waves.
The La Divina Pastora Roman Catholic Church is the site of a religious observance where
Catholics, Hindus and others venerate the same saint. Situated in Siparia in south western
Trinidad, the church is atop a plateau 80 kilometers from Port of Spain and
23 kilometers from San Fernando.
Catholic Church history says that in 1703 in Seville, Spain, Isidore, a
Spanish Capuchin Monk, received an apparition of the Blessed Virgin, in which she
requested him to encourage the faithful to seek her intercession with Jesus, addressing
her as "Divina Pastora" - Good Shepherdess. In 1758, the Aragonese Capuchins
established a mission at Siparia. One of the reasons for the mission was that it lay along
a route used by the Warahoon Indians as they traveled from the Orinoco region in
Venezuela, landing on Quinam Beach. Then in 1795,
Pope Pius VI decreed that the saint known as "The Divine Shepherdess", or more
familiarly called 'La Divina Pastora', be made the patron saint of all the Capuchin
missions. Sometime in the 1800's a Spanish priest brought a black hued statue of this
Catholic saint from Venezuela to the church in Siparia , declaring that it had saved his
life. The church was thereafter referred to as "The Church of La Divina
The church celebrates the feast day of its patron saint during Easter.
Over the years, this feast day has also become a religious observance for many Hindus. The
event has become known as the "Siparee Fete" or Siparia Fete and the statue
known to those of the Hindu faith as Sipari Mai (Mother of Siparia) or Siparee
Mai Ke Mala. The reason for this multi-religious observance has not
been definitively identified. The most popular view is that because the statue was
of a dark-skinnedfemale in a flowing, white sari-like gown with long jet-black
hair the Indian indentured labourers identified her as Mother Kali, who is the black Hindu
deity who leads her children to the invisible God and who readily grants wishes. Others
have claimed that some indentured labourers saw an apparition of a lady in white sitting
on a stone under a palm tree where the church now stands. They claim further that the
apparition was endowed with healing powers, just as Mother Kali. Another theory is that
long ago Siparee Mai appeared at the La Divina Church, as a baby, to grant the
wishes of East Indian forefathers. It is said that the baby, who appeared close to the
altar, aged as the hours of the day went by. By evening, she turned into an old woman and
disappeared as the sun went down.
Whichever the reason for the start of the veneration, hundreds of Hindus visit the
church each year. On Good Friday, persons of the Hindu faith take offerings to
"Sipari Mai" either in supplication or thanksgiving. They believe the statue
bestows fertility to barren women, marital success to couples, healing to the sick, proper
husbands for young girls and blessings to the poor and needy. Children who are unable to
walk or speak could be healed if offerings are made to the Goddess.
Another Hindu ritual which is performed on the church grounds on Good Friday is the
first cutting of the hair of a child, locks of which are placed at the feet of the statue.
The hair is cut as a sign of dedication and offering.
Because of this unique nature of the devotions that take place at La
Divina Pastora, the church has been, and continues to be, the subject of research by
undergraduate and graduate students.
While the La Divina Pastora Church in Siparia is well known, there is
another Trinidad Catholic Church and statue called La Divina Pastora and in a small way
both are linked by the Hindu veneration of the statue in Siparia. The other La Divina
Pastora resides in the La Pastora chapel in Lopinot, which is situated several miles after
the main village in Lopinot and its parish church
of La Veronica. The church at La Veronica was built in 1945 when the colonial government
relocated the people of the Caura Valley to the
site of the former La Reconnaissance estate of Compte
de Lopinot. The residents of Caura dismantled parts of their church, including the
cornerstone, two colonnades, several stained glass windows, a bell and the statue of Saint
Veronica, and carried them to Lopinot. The Church at la Pastora however predates the La
Veronica church having been built in 1890 using sand, gravel and stones from the Arouca
River, which runs through the valley. Within the Chapel that has replaced the La Pastora
Church is a statue of La Divina Pastora. It is reputed that in October 1917 at the Arouca
church this statue wept, shedding tears that were witnessed by 200 persons. Shortly after
the weeping the statue was moved to the La Pastora church. It is this statue that provides
the link to the Siparia church.
The exact date when Hindus began journeying to Siparia is not known but
Catholic Church records of 1871 refer to the practice. In the 1880's planters in north
Trinidad, attempted to reduce the work time lost as a result of their laborers going to
Siparia. They imported a statue of La Divina Pastora and installed it in Calvary Chapel at
the western foot of Laventille Hill, which they re-christened Siparia Hill. Unfortunately
for the planters, the statue they imported was white, so the indentured labourers never
believed in the statue and continued going to Siparia. Eventually the statue was moved to
the Arouca church and then to La Pastora in Lopinot.
All photographs (unless otherwise stated) are the property of Brian Ramsey. None
of the photographs may be reproduced without the express written consent of Outdoor Business Group Limited and Brian Ramsey.