Uncommon Attraction: St. George’s Cathedral, a True Guyanese Miracle
For those inclined to base their uncommon travels around spiritual enlightenment, Guyana is a good place to go. The country boasts as diverse a collection of ethnicities as anywhere, with African, East Indian, European, Chinese and indigenous Amerindian peoples all calling Guyana home. This diversity has, in turn, spawned a rich spiritual tradition. Hinduism, Islam, and Rastafari are all followed. The Baha’i Faith is too.
As elsewhere in the Caribbean, though, Guyana’s most popular religion is Christianity. Its most enduring symbol: St. George’s Anglican Cathedral.
Even if it wasn’t so historic, so sacred and revered, St. George’s would still be one of the top must-see attractions in all of the Caribbean for one simple fact: it’s among the world’s tallest wooden structures. The cathedral soars to a height of 143 feet! Gleaming in stark white, it’s uniquely impressive and inspiring…much like its history.
The story of St. George’s dates all the way back to 1810, when the original version was built on the site of what it now St. George’s School. The first St. George’s was small and its congregation soon outgrew it, so plans were made in 1842 for a new, bigger church at its current location in the heart of Georgetown.
This second St. George’s didn’t last very long, though, as poor construction rendered the church too hazardous for use soon after it was completed. In 1877, it had to be torn down.
The third and final St. George’s opened in 1894. It is this same building, designed and built some 120 years ago, that you can still see, visit and worship in today.
So, I guess you can say that the third time was the charm for St. George’s, but there’s something more to the story that I imagine makes this place particularly special for proud Guyanese, no matter what their beliefs.
You see, when that second ill-fated St. George’s was commissioned, it was built with brick to be exceptionally strong. That obviously didn’t work out too well, which begs the question: Why has the wooden St. George’s endured for all these years in the precise spot where the presumably stronger brick version failed?
The answer, some say, has everything to do with the type of wood used in the construction of St. George’s #3.
The miracle wood, Greenheart, is exceedingly strong, durable, resistant to insects and virtually fireproof. Most importantly, though, it’s also native to Guyana.
In finalizing the plans for St. George’s #3, church leaders decreed that “woods of the country and no others were to to be used” in its construction.
Was this divine architectural planning? Faith in Guyana’s forests? Luck?
Who knows. All I can say is the result is magnificent, not only in its looks, but also in what St. George’s symbolizes for the strength of Guyana.