Will Barbados save St. Michael’s and All Angels Cathedral?

Cambodia’s Pol Pot wanted “Year Zero”…

…When it comes to reminders of British sovereignty and slavery, some folks in Barbados have the same goal.

With assistance from Passin Thru

The original title of my article was “Can Barbados save St. Michael’s…”, but then it occurred to me that that is not the real question. Of course we “can” save the Cathedral, the question is “Will we…”, or to be more truthful…

“Do we really want to see St. Michael’s Cathedral rot so we can further purge Barbados of the architectural reminders British Imperialism and slavery?”

You watch the comments for this article. Every time Barbados Free Press talks about preserving some old building or plantation house, more than a few otherwise intelligent and well-meaning Bajans come online and say “Let it rot” – or as in the case of Sam Lord’s Castle, “Let it Burn”.

These folks who want to remove every vestige of British history on this island are not just a few on the fringe. Although this feeling, attitude or undercurrent isn’t spoken about in the news media, it is real, widespread and it influences the actions of our so-called leaders too. And that’s a shame because the end result is we are losing our history and our heritage because whenever there is a choice to be made about preserving our history, we as a society willfully let it rot and fade away.

Neglect is just as effective as a bulldozer, except that using a bulldozer is a more honest action.

When I walk these fields and these hills and see the burned out remnants of plantation houses and the fallen walls, I touch the now-crumbled marl and think of the men and women who built the walls and the houses. Slaves, or freed slaves but still in slavery of a sort, ripped from their home countries and shipped like cattle to Barbados. Dying, starving, whipped and raped along the journey – only to arrive as possessions in a strange and brutal world.

They built St. Michael’s Cathedral. They built the plantation houses and the windmills and the signal towers. These buildings are monuments to British Imperialism it’s true, but moreso they are monuments to our ancestors named and unnamed who sleep in unmarked mass graves.

We need seven million dollars to restore and save St. Michael’s and All Angels Cathedral. Open your wallet or purse and say “save it”, or keep your money to yourself and say “Let it rot”.

There is no middle ground.

About St. Michael’s and All Angels Cathedral in Barbados

This Anglican church was first constructed in 1665 and accommodated 3,000 worshipers. The original building was destroyed by a hurricane in 1780. The current building was dedicated on the Feast of Saint Michaels and All Angels in 1789. The building and clock and bell tower were significantly damaged again by a hurricane in 1831 forcing repairs. The grounds are covered with the tombstones of the departed and have been aligned into walkways and courtyards. One is taken aback when looking down to read the inscriptions of departed from the late 1600’s and early 1700’s.

From a historical perspective the original building was constructed the year of the Great Plague in London and one year before London’s great fire. The current building was constructed the same year that George Washington was elected as the first President of the United States.

… from WayMarking.com

Photo courtesy of Ship of Fools


Filed under Barbados, Culture & Race Issues, History, Race, Religion, Slavery

33 responses to “Will Barbados save St. Michael’s and All Angels Cathedral?

  1. Ananias

    Perhaps the Anglican Church should sell some of its vast land holdings in Barbados to repair their cathedral.

  2. You reap what you sow!

    Barbadians don’t want to hear that the small Barbadian with little or no income chipped in to build Lord Nelson’s statute over a hundred years ago even though it was a fact.

    The sad truth is that Barbadians don’t care much about their environment either.

  3. what will they think of next

    We are losing our history or we are losing your history?
    Not quite the same you know.
    I see no reason why the Anglican Church Cathedral should be saved.
    I will not be contributing any money to it.

  4. x

    it a landmark, an architectural treasure, a building of historical significance, a tourist attraction and a special place on this island. it’s a shame that we care so little about such things. i suppose the money is better spent on buying new 7-series BMWs and Audi A6s for MPs and sending Sandi to China to live like a king.

  5. what will they think of next

    I will bet all the tea in China that if Sandi was a different skin colour you would not be saying that, X.

  6. Belle

    @what will they think…

    As long as anyone can trace their ancestry back to about four our five generations in Barbados, it is a part of our heritage. You can deny it but that does not change anything in the past. In this island there is an admixture of British heritage as seen in the buildings, street names, our system of governance etc., and African heritage as seen in some of our cultural traditions and material items such as pottery etc. If you feel so strongly that the cathedral is not a part of our heritage, give it all back including their language after all that is part of the heritage we received from the British. It is a bit hypocritical to accept only what you deem useful while discarding the rest.


    THANK YOU Belle, for a sensible repsonse

  8. J. Payne

    Are not Tom Adams and Sir Grantley Adams buried in that church yard?

    (Sarcasm) Yeah Bajans, let it rott…. I guess those two Bajan leaders were too British and once the church is gone it could be turned a parking garage. (/end Sarcasm)

  9. Wily Coyote

    Bajan’s as a whole have no pride of ownership in particular to those relating to the time of British control of the island. I once asked a Lady, who was a late Barbadian Prime Ministers wife, why on the island I cannot find a restored Plantation with all it’s infrastructure intact, as this would be a wonderful tourist attraction. The USA, Canada, Britain all have their functionally restored historic venues, North American Indian settlements, French fortifications in Canada and Hadrian’s Wall in England to name a few, which are not fondly remembered time frames in their history, however they are maintained with pride. She, the Lady, told me that as an African Barbadian that part of the countries history was to be forgotten and not relevant to the countries history. Being a late Prime Ministers wife I can only assume that her late husband also had similar views. It’s a shame that some BLACK Bajan’s still blame the WHITE British for all evils. Most British, French, Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish, and Americans are not proud of this time in history, however it still remains history and no Black individual(s) living or future Black individual(s) will ever be able to change history.

  10. J. Payne

    @Wiley Coyote. I found the renovation of Warren’s Great House most interesting. It is located in back of the FirstCaribbean I.B. head office… Off Highway 2… I had to take a photo..

    It reminded me a lot of the Wildey House.

    I haven’t uploaded photos of St. Michael’s yet…

  11. what will they think of next

    None of the things you named, we did not ask for, it was all thrust upon us, As a matter of fact my ancestors died for resisting.
    Belle read your history again.
    It the church is to be restored the people who benefited most from Colonialism shold be the ones to contribute.
    That is the white bajans.

  12. Mathilde

    Surely all the so-called Christians in this island will want to save one of their prettiest churches?

  13. Mathilde

    “what will they think of next” you realise most of the richest white bajans now were not from plantocracy but actually from poor white families right? Most of the plantation owners actually lived in England and moved back there ever since. Get over yourself.

  14. bk

    I won’t be donating a single cent. You mean to tell me that somebody now wake up and realize that the church needs fixing. What about the tracts of land owned by said church, can’t they sell some. In times of plenty (pre recession) they should have been doing something about it.
    @ Belle, the British did not give us a language to speak, matter of fact, that was frowned upon, WE TOOK what we needed and amalgamated it with our African syntax, we made creole, bajan whatever you want to call it.

  15. what will they think of next

    Have you tried Telling the Jews to get over the Holocaust Mathilde?

  16. x

    I’m shocked that this turned into a race issue. I really don’t get the connection.

    And it I don’t think it makes sense for Barbados to have a permanent ambassador in China no matter what the color of his skin. I wish they disclosed the costs of such a mission and that someone could articulate the benefits because I just don’t get it.

  17. Mathilde

    oh Im sorry WWTTON I didn’t realise you were born 300 years ago. You should call the Guinness World Book Of Records! And if you are going to use the Jews as an example, they actually pay to keep Auschwitz standing as a permanent reminder. Maybe that’s the difference between someone who respects their history and someone who just wants to stick their head in the sand.
    Anyhow, aside from the loaded symbolism of the building, I would like to point out that Barbados is slowly being taken over by architectural monstrosities, and we should try to save the few buildings that wouldnt be eyesores with proper care. That said, some of the comments here call for the Anglican church to sell land and use the money to fix the church, sounds like a good idea too. God don’t help those who don’t help themselves and all that

  18. WTF!

    It never ceases to amaze and amuse me, how some persons can take one topic and turn it into a race issue.
    After reading the comments above, I can’t help but think that “What Will They Think of Next” is ashamed of his/her ancestors.

  19. CanuckBajan

    Sadly, yet another example of what will probably be lost due to neglect. This neglect is probably due to many factors including lack of funds, lack of interest, lack of architectural heritage infrastructure, economic downturn, racism and bitterness (on all sides), “nouveau riche” ideas on what constitutes the appearance of success, etc.
    I have no personal interest in organized religion but most houses of religion are beautiful buildings that deserve to be preserved for their own faithful and for the wider population’s understanding of their country, history, and culture.
    As my Bajan mom always said “Child, you need to know where you came from to know where you’re going.”

  20. J. Payne

    @CanuckBajan In America they have the opposit… “It doesn’t matter where you come from…..” when showcasing someone that came from humble beginnings and reached real far. Its an interesting dichotomy IMHO.

  21. repeat visitor from Canada

    i can understand the mixed feelings of commenters. i went with a bajan friend to visit st. andrews church and codrington hall with a first-time-to-Barbados visitor and i also felt those vibes suddenly: these places are nice to show tourists, but how would i feel if when they were built my family was trying to pull out of oppression?

  22. CanuckBajan

    @J.Payne – I agree wholeheartedly that where you came from (geographically, economically, etc), shouldn’t be a barrier to what you can achieve. Ironically, the farther we have to climb often pushes us to reach further than we might have.
    We should be protecting old churches, plantation houses, chattel houses, forests, coastal landscapes, windmills, schools, etc and building carefully for the future.
    I interpret my mother’s wise words as a cautious reminder: we must never forget the past – good and bad – but learn from it so that we can grow and become better than what we were.
    Lest we forget…

  23. what will they think of next

    I can’t imagine why anyone would want to waste money on a project such as this, but as I said before those who benefited from colonism should be the ones to put up the money.
    These relics of slavery and oppression have no place in Modern day Barbados.
    I don’t hear anyone asking for money to help Bishop Granville’s church which is truly deserving of help.
    All this about part of our history is just a load of claptrap. Sam Lords Castle, St. Michael Cathedral, the buildings around the garrison are all in the same boat.

  24. what will they think of next

    Church’s slavery apology ‘is not enough’
    By Ben Fenton 12:01AM GMT 11 Feb 2006
    Lisa Codrington knew her ancestors were Anglicans like her and that, almost two centuries ago, they were slaves. But she did not realise until recently that they were slaves of the Church of England.

    The clue is in her name: Codrington. Slaves of British planters often took the name of their masters and, until 1710, Miss Codrington’s forebears lived on the Codrington plantation in Barbados.

    After that date, as she discovered for herself a year or two before the apology in this week’s General Synod made it clear to the rest of us, the Codrington lands, and the hundreds of slaves on them, became Church property.

    The Codrington slaves, men like Devonshire Codrington, born in 1776 and Lisa’s many-times great-grandfather, did not become free until 1834, when the Church, like all slave-owners, was forced to release them.

    Anglican culpability in the Caribbean slave trade can be traced back at least to 1710, when the planter Christopher Codrington died, leaving his 800-acre Barbados plantations to the Church’s newly-established Society for the Propagation of the Christian Religion in Foreign Parts (SPG).

    Read the rest of the article here:_

  25. bk

    I hope that when they get the refurbishment underway, that they remove all those ‘nice’ works of art. After all:
    Exodus 20:4 – thou shalt not make unto thee, any graven image, or any likeness of ANY THING that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

    Hmm, make you wonder huh

  26. J. Payne

    @what will they think of next.
    At that rate the West Indies would have to dump everything…..
    CARICOM (since that is based on the British conceptualised “West Indies Federation”), the idea of a LIAT or CAL because that is based on BWIA (British West Indies Airways) — a former part of British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC), The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) since that is based on the same Anglican Church. (Windward and Leeward Islands groupings under the Anglican Church.) etc. So there you have it. The West Indies has to throw away everything to get away with “British-ness”.

  27. Hilary B

    I did my work well.
    I twisted the black nationalist psyche well
    screwed up their little minds, and the fruit is now ripe.

    God Bless UWI History,Cave Hill and the local communist cadre
    (can you tell them apart?)
    -at whose feet we may lay many such negative-sentiment happenings
    and non-happenings on this little black/white island.

    Mash up ervyting en buy back.
    Bring um back, lookin like New York. nuff steel concrete en glass.
    Shiny tings does fill we eye!
    just as did the beads, baubles and bits of flashy mirror that got us here,from Africa.
    Anyone see the connection with today’s mirror-chrome flash-rims?

    We en wany nein old-so. Mash em up.

  28. J. Payne

    @Hilary B Yeah make it look like downtown Port-of-Spain….

  29. who are our ancestors

    The History of Abu Bakr Sadika, known in Jamaica by the name of Edward Donlan. Taken from “A twelvemonth’s residence in the West Indies: during the transition from slavery to apprenticeship; By Richard Robert Madden, 1835

    LETTER XXXI. THE SCHERIFE OF TIMBUCTOO. To J. Buckingham, Esq. Kingston, Sept. 29,1834

    ” My name is Abu Bakr Sadika, born in Timbuctoo, and brought up in Geneh. I acquired the knowledge of the Al Quran in the country of Gounah, in which country there are many teachers for young people: they are not of one country, but come from different parts, and are brought there to dwell for their instruction. …..My father’s name is Kara-Mousa, Scheriffsay…..Some of Gounah’s people were obliged to fly to Cong, and on that very day they made me a captive. As soon as I was made prisoner, they stripped me, and tied me with a cord, and gave me a heavy load to carry, and led me into the country of Buntocoo,—from thence to the town of Cumasy, where the king of Shan tee reigned, whose name is Ashai,— and from thence to Assicuma,—and from thence to Agimaca, which is the country of the Fantees; from thence to the town of Dago, by the sea-side (all the way on foot, and well loaded;) there they sold me to the Christians in that town—there one of the ship’s captains purchased me, and delivered me over to one of his sailors: the boat immediately pushed off, and I was carried on board the ship. We were three months at sea before we arrived in Jamaica, which was the beginning of bondage.—I have none to thank but those that brought me here. But, praise be to God, who has every thing in his power to do as he thinks good, and no man can remove whatever burden he chooses to put on us. As he said, ‘Nothing shall fall on us except what he shall ordain; he is our Lord, and let all that believe in him put their trust in him.’ My parents’ religion is Islam: they are all circumcised, and their devotions are five times a day; they fast in the month Ramadan; they give tribute according to the law; they are married to four wives, but the fifth is an abomination to them. They fight for their religion, and they travel to the Hedjaz (those that are capable.) They don’t eat any meat except what they themselves kill. They do not drink wine nor spirits, as it is held an abomination so to do. .They do not associate with any that worship idols, or profane the Lord’s name, or do dishonour to their parents, or commit murder, or bear false witness, or wno are covetous, proud, or boastful; for such faults are an abomination unto my religion. They are particularly careful in the education of their children, and in their behaviour, but I am lost to all these advantages: since my bondage I am become corrupt; and I now conclude by begging the Almighty God to lead me into the path that is proper for me, for he alone knows the secrets of my heart and what I am in need of.
    ” Abon Becr Sadika.
    ” Kingston, Jamaica, Sept. 20, 1834.”

    The above was written in Arabic. The man speaks English well and correctly for a negro, but does not read or write it. I caused him to read the original, and translate it word by word; and, from the little knowledge I have of the spoken language, I can safely present you with this version of it as a literal translation. ……,

    Yours, very truly,

    R.R. M

  30. J. Payne

    Didn’t fully capture the whole reason of why it is there. It isn’t really a “monument to the church”. Needless to say Barbados had the Vestry System under the Church of England. Therefore you’d have churches, and when they become too full, you’d create chapels of ease around them. Once the chapels became too full they can be elevated to churches as well. Each main town would have a Church, and then you’d have a Parish Church for the entire region. When Bridgetown was to be officially recognised as a city by the Imperial Crown it was thought that the church should be elevated to Cathedral status. Once that happened, St. Mary’s was elevated as the new St. Michael’s “Parish Church”.
    There were other reasons which promoted turning this into a Cathedral. Barbados’ Governor led the Windward Islands, and therefore some thought it should have a Cathedral elevated above the other isles too. So Bridgetown has one Cathedral (for the Windwards) and Antigua had a Cathedral (for the Leewards). When riots broke out in Barbados due to opposition to this Windward Islands union both Barbados and Tobago ended up leaving the union. Barbados tried unsuccessfully to have Tobago placed under its jurisdiction but failed when it was placed by the British under Trinidad.
    With those Barbados and Tobago gone St. George’s, Grenada took over for Barbados for the Windward Islands. The building in Bridgetown kept it’s Cathedral name though. So Barbados can knock down theirs which will leave Antigua with theirs.

  31. Dessalines

    @ Belle – It seems like you are confusing heritage and accountability/ responsibility – the question is not whether the church is part of our heritage or not. It is. The question is do the taxpayers of Barbados foot the bill for a vestige of slavery and colonialism which acted against their interest. No they should not. The taxpayers dont have to pay keeping the English language, it is in their economic and social interest to keep it.
    Before the Anglican church or any other institution solicits funds from taxpayers or even the general public they should not only publish their financial positions but give account for their stewardship during the difficult period in our history. Churches collect enormous amounts of monies in the form of tithes and donations which goes unreported to the tax revenue dept. yet whenever their properties are in need of upkeep they run to the public with their begging bowls out.

  32. what will they think of next

    Well J. Payne, we have to start somewhere and the Cathedral is as good a place as any.
    I hope it falls to @#$% down. Not a penny of mine.
    I owe it to my great, great, great grand parents.

  33. J. Payne

    @what will they think of next.
    On a serious note:
    Taking such a position may seriously prejudice Barbados’ application to UNESCO for World Heritage status for Bridgetown. I believe it might be included in that application.