St John's Anglican Cathedral

St John's Anglican Cathedral
The Anglican Cathedral of St. John the Divine, St. John's, Antigua, West Indies

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Roof Works

The wood for the roof is here.  We recommence works on the roof tomorrow.

Vestry Floor Demolition

Blessed Stone

We gave a piece of the Cathedral floor to a local artist to see if he could put something interesting on it. This is what he did.

Cathedral Day Tours a Success

The Cathedral Day Tour was a great success.  By a quarter to eight that Saturday morning people were already gathering.  The first tour went in shortly after eight and it was nonstop for the rest of the day.  People were interested and excited during and after the tour.  Many people bought their piece of blessed stone.  In all we grossed a little over $15,000 EC.

Congratulations to all who took part.   However the real fruit of this experience is all the interest that it generated.  We will have to do it all again.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Cathedral Tours

Tours of
the Cathedral of St. John the Divine
One Day Only
Saturday 27th November 2010
Time 8AM – 4PM

Ø Hear an overview of the history of the three churches that have been built on that site
Ø See the 1840’s underground ventilation and water system which is visible now that the floor has been removed
Ø Spend a moment in quiet prayer at the altar.
Ø Purchase a piece of Blessed Stone – which has been removed from the Cathedral floor. It will come complete with a certificate of authenticity. 

Tours can be pre-booked by calling 779 7518. A minimum donation of $10.00 per person will be accepted for the tour.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Fumigation of St. John's Cathedral - Los Angeles, California



They have a hospital, day care centre and soup kitchen on the back of their church and they did not even bother to remove the food from the kitchen.  They do not seem to be worried about the potential harmful effects of Vikane.

Termite Fumigation

How do you kill the millions of termites that have infested every nook and cranny of the Cathedral?  You fumigate.  Spraying only helps with small localised infestations.  When the entire building is infested you must fumigate.  However we have to convince the local Pest Control board that we can do that safely. 

Fumigation involves covering the entire building with a tent and filling the building with a termite killing gas.  While this has been done locally before in the past on other buildings, we are getting some reluctance to allow this for the Cathedral.  Please pray that the Pest Control Board will "sign off" on this project or else our restoration will be very seriously compromised.

Can we tent a building the size of the Cathedral?  The King Kamehameha Hotel in Hawaii was tented and fumigated recently.  As you can see it was a large mulitstory building and it was completely covered with a tent.

Monday, November 15, 2010


There are a number of tourist websites that describe the architecture of the Cathedral as Neo-baroque.  But just what is this style?

The Baroque Revival or Neo-baroque was an architectural style movement in the early 20th century. The term is used to describe architecture which displays important aspects of Baroque style, but is not from the Baroque period proper—i.e., the 17th and 18th centuries. -Wikipedia

Baroque  is an artistic style prevalent from the late 16th century to the early 18th century in Europe...........characterized by dynamic movement, overt emotion and self-confident rhetoric.
...........Baroque architecture ....a means of impressing visitors and expressing triumphant power and control.- Wikipedia
The Széchenyi Medicinal Bath in Budapest

St. John's Cathedral
What do you think?  Does it impress visitors?  Does it express triumphant power and control? It is Neo-baroque?

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Sinking Font

No its not an optical illusion.  The font is sinking.
We are still brainstorming how we are going to move it.  It is solid stone and is a survivor of the 1843 earthquake, an account of which can be read here (  One thing is for sure, when we move it, we wont move it far.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Armistice Day - Lest we forget

At the 11th hour, on the 11th day, of the 11th month of 1918, the Great War, the war to end all wars came to an end.  The flower of an entire generation perished in this war and as Margret Lockett wrote in her book, "Antigua Then," not a British family in Antigua was untouched.  To this day war rememberance practices and ceremonies are observed at this time because of this war.  There is an entire altar dedicated to those young men who fell in this war and the other wars since.  Their names are inscribed in the many plaques that surround this memorial.  However there is one name there that fascinates me. 

It is Captain Ian Donald Roy McDonald ( a quadruple fighter ace of the then RFC/RAF.  The propeller of his fighter aircraft an SE-5a ( hangs over the altar.

 He was credited with 20 aerial victories and was decorated.  He survived the war only to perish in Iraq during the insurgency there in 1920. 

I pray that the sacrifices that he and all the young men made in these armed conflicts, before and since then, be never devalued or forgotten by those of us whose freedom they secured.  ....all the young men....on both sides of all conflicts.

 May God grant us the wisdom and love for one another to stop sacrificing our young men and women in these armed conflicts.

Termites and more termites

Termites are in the pews, in the floor, in the walls and even in some foundation bricks. They're everywhere!!

We are planning a mass kill.  An extermination of gargantuan proportions.  Thank God we are not Buddists. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Cathedral myths and mysteries

For years we have heard that the Cathedral is built on a volcano or that there was some mysterious dark hole in the foundation.  Well the following pictures will show the closest thing we have found to this.  It is we believe an inspection hole or manhole of some sort.  We thought that it was connected to the rainwater drain system underneath the aisles but we have not found any connections.  This hole is located right next to the north door by the vestry.  It was hidden beneath a small section of pews that were built over it right next to the stairwell.  Given the superstitious nature of people years ago, it is not to hard to imagine how this feature could become the source of these stories.  It looks innocent enough in the pictures because the flash illuminates the bottom.  But even on the brightest days it is a dark and mysterious hole.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Rainwater Drains Underneath the Aisles

The rainwater from the roof was drained down pipes enclosed within the walls at the four corners of the section of the Cathedral where the Main and cross aisles intersect.  The water was then channeled away by stone and brick gutters that ran under the aisles and out into the cistern on the north side of the churchyard.

Monday, November 8, 2010

1840's Air Conditioning

This is a view of the main aisle looking towards the main altar, which is currently covered with plywood.  With the floor slabs removed you can now look under the sanctuary and see the arched air inlet that allowed air to flow under the aisles and enter the Cathedral through the floor vents.

On Solid Rock I Stand

Whenever they got the chance our ancestors used existing rock outcroppings as foundations.  The foundation seen here is the under the external stone wall of the Cathedral nearest the North Tower.  "On solid rock I stand, all other else is sinking sand."


The technical committee has determined that extensive foundation works will have to take place.  Currently under consideration is the casting of an entire steel reinforced concrete floor complete with foundation beams.  This will currently present the single largest change to the scope of works.  This will seriously affect overall project costs and project scheduling.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Floor Slab Cost Recovery - Paving Stones

We are going to sell the pieces of the stone slabs that made up the Cathedral aisles as paving stones.

Slab Removal Complete

29 October 2010

Stone vs Steel Reinforced Concrete

The best illustration of the strength differences between stone floor slabs and steel reinforced concrete is in their demolition.  Some sections of the existing aisles are already steel reinforced concrete.  Probably from previous restoration efforts.  The video below shows the demolition of a small section of one of those concrete slabs.

As you cans see it takes several hits to loosen the concrete from in between the reinforcement and those pieces are rather small.  By contrast the video below shows the demolition of the next section of the aisle which is stone.


The Roof

Cathedral roof from centre section looking back towards the South Tower
13 August 2010

Same roof section looking the opposite way with the galvanised metal sheeting removed
18 October 2010

Same section with purlins and wood sheeting removed. The decking seen below the rafters is the interior ceiling. 18 October 2010

Same section with wood sheeting removed showing inner roof construction details.
18 October 2010

Second Cave In

First Slabs removed 14 October 2010

We decided to remove the floor slabs intact with the hope to cut them into smaller sections and sell them as paving stones.  Even these first few sections were extremely heavy.  In order to move the larger pieces we obtained a pallet jack and a few pallets.  The idea was to wrestle the slabs onto the pallets, lift them with the pallet jack and wheel them out of the Cathedral.  However on the first day we tried it, 15 October, we had our second cave in when the removed slab, pallet jack and worker went through the main aisle.  Thanks be to God again, the pallet jack took the brunt of the damage with the worker only suffering a slightly swollen ankle.  The slabs were then shatterd with a sledge hammer and taken out in pieces.

Floor Slab Removal

14 October 2010

15 October 2010

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Large Termite Nest Found Under Pew Floor
20 September 2010

Cathedral Interior Sans Pews

27 September 2010

Contract Signing - Phase 1 Begins

Pictured above: Zenworth Davis, Bruce Arrindell, Franklin Benjamin, Rev Brian Fraser, Valerie Gonsalves- Barreiro, Leslie Emmanuel, The Very Rev. J Rudolph Smithen

On Wednesday the 22 September 2010, the contract bertween the Cathedral and Parish of St. John and Davis asnd Davis Builders Ltd. was signed.  The Dean signed on behalf of the Cathedral and Mr. Zenworth Davis on the behalf of Davis and Davis Builders Ltd.  Present at this ceremony were both wardens, the treasurer, Rev. Fraser and various members of the vestry.
It was an emotional moment for some as the great endeavour to restore our beloved Cathedral has finally begun.  All in all it was a happy and cozy event and all left feeling motivated and determined to suceed in completing this phase of the restoration.

Concrete Colour Tests

Sample 1

Sample 2

Sample 3

June 2010

In order to colour the concrete an iron oxide based additive will be added to the concrete when it is mixed.  The Technical Committee decided that based on the varying colours of the existing floor a uniform dark grey colour would be the best compromise of what colour we should make the Cathedral floor.  To get the right mix ratio a test was conducted.  Three samples were made of different ratios of colour additive to concrete.  After curing, the samples were transported to the cathedral and the team assembled to choose the best colour.  Sample 3 was chosen.

Floor Solution - Polished Concrete

The Polished Concrete Floor of a Church in Georgia
After a great deal of search and research the Technical Committee found that the best solution for the restoration of the aisles would be to replace the stone slabs with polished coloured reinforced concrete.  This would be feasible as coloured concrete is locally available and we could achieve a ‘marble like’ look and finish when we polished it.  The possibility and logistics, not to mention costs, of stone replacements were staggering.  After a congregational consultation we committed ourselves to this solution and we are therefore confident of restoring the Cathedral aisles to their former 1848 glory.

The Floor

The construction of the ‘floor’ of the cathedral is unique in that one must make the distinction between the aisles, which are stone and the floor of the pews which is wooden.  The ‘floor’ is a suspended one that rests on foundation walls made of stone cemented with a lime based mortar.  As it is on the brow of a hill, which some claim to be an extinct or ,hopefully not, a dormant volcano, the space beneath the floor is only a crawl space at best.  These areas are all under the stone aisles.  The areas between the aisles, over which the pews rest, are filled with material to within, in some places, six inches of the pew floors.  The reason for this hollow space underneath the aisles is not for the amusement and adventure of the many young boys in the past who have crawled around under there but for the purposes of ventilation. In the floor of the cathedral are several brass circular grills.  These would seem to the uninformed to be floor drains.  However what they are is part of an ingenious ventilation system.  At the eastern side of the Cathedral there appears in the outer foundation wall several grilled arched openings.  These openings are in truth entry ways for the prevailing winds to blow air into and beneath the Cathedral and up through the floor vents into the nave (the part of the church that is designed to accommodate the congregation in pews or chairs).  The stone slabs that make up the aisles are four inches thick and rest on the foundation walls. 

Restoration Phases

Currently we have divided the works into four phases. 
Phase one  - Roof, aisles and pews
Phase two – Interior walls,  exterior walls, electrical works
Phase three – Toilets, stairs and doors
Phase four – Churchyard and surrounding walls.

Crumbling Exterior Walls

Feb 2010

Water Damage from The Leaking Roof

Feb 2010

Termite Damage To Pews

Feb 2010

Cracked and Sagging Stones of the Main Aisle

Feb 2010

The Closing

Metal Plate Covering the Area of the Cave-In

The Cathedral was closed in December 2009 following an accident when one of the stone floor slabs gave way underneath a teacher who was preparing students of the Antigua Girls High School for their annual Carol Service.  Thanks be to God, her injuries were limited to soft tissue damage and she has since made a complete recovery.  Until this incident, restoration efforts were focused on the roof sheathing that has been in place since the Cathedral was constructed.  An examination of the aisles showed that the stone slabs were sagging and cracked in many places and could no longer be relied on for support.