Qingdao Catholic Church

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St. Michael's Cathedral, Qingdao
St. Michael's Cathedral, Qingdao

St. Michael's Cathedral also called the Zhejiang Road Catholic Churh, which is abbreviated by locals to simply the "Catholic Church" is a Catholic church in Qingdao (also known as Tsingtao), Shandong Province, China and is the seat of the Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Qingdao. It is located in the oldest part of Qingdao, at 15 Zhejiang Road, on the east side of Zhongshan Road in Shinan District. Built by German missionaries, the cathedral stands at the top of a hill in the center of the old German-built part of the city. It is the largest example of Romanesque Revival architecture in the province, resembling a German cathedral of the 12th century.

St. Michael's Cathedral is the product of a strong German presence in Shandong Province in the 19th and early 20th centuries. In the mid-19th century the European powers forcibly opened China to foreign trade. The Divine Word Missionaries built a church in the Jiaozhou Bay concession in Shandong in 1902, and in 1934 erected the cathedral, which remained nominally under their administration until 1964. In 1942 it came under the control of the Japanese Army, returning to Chinese control when the Japanese left Qingdao in 1945. In the early 1950s, all foreign missionaries, including the Bishop of Qingdao, were either imprisoned or expelled from China, and during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) the cathedral was defaced and abandoned. In 1981, it was repaired by the government and reopened for services, and in 1992 it was listed as a Provincial Historic Building by the government of Shandong Province.

Features of St. Michael's Cathedral

St. Michael's Cathedral, Qingdao
St. Michael's Cathedral, Qingdao

The cathedral stands atop a hill in the center of what was the original settlement of the city of Qingdao, at 15 Zhejiang Road (formerly Bremen Strasse) on the east side of Zhongshan Road in Shinan District. The church is built in the historic style of German Romanesque. It is cruciform in plan, having a nave flanked by a lower single aisle on either side, crossed by a transept, and with a semi-circular apse projecting at the east end.

The cathedral is 65.9 metres (216 ft) long and the transept is 37.6-metre (123 ft) wide, with an exterior height of 18 metres (59 ft). The towers are 56 metres (184 ft) in height,and have Rhenish helm spires, each topped by a 4.5-metre (15 ft) cross. One tower contains a single large bell, and the other three smaller bells.

The west front rises to a balustrade between the towers at 30 metres (98 ft). It has three portals, with a rose window above the central one. The building materials are reinforced concrete and granite, and the roofs are red tiles.

St. Michael's Cathedral, Qingdao
St. Michael's Cathedral, Qingdao

In his book, German Architecture in China, Warner Torsten writes of the cathedral: According to residents the cathedral is far too large for the scale of Qingdao. Its position on top of a hill makes this even more evident. Perhaps the idea was to produce a powerful building to hold its own with the Protestant Church, which for 20 years had been the largest religious building in Qingdao, or perhaps the intention was to outstrip the 46 metre-high towers of the Franciscan church in Jinan. The towers of the cathedral in Qingdao were higher than all the other churches in the major cities of Northern China=Tianjin, Beijing, Dalian, or Jinan. They dominate the silhouette of Qingdao; they are particularly impressive from a ship entering the harbour.

The total floor area of St. Michael's Cathedral is 2,740 square metres (29,500 sq ft). While the exterior of the cathedral is neo-Romanesque, the interior has piers and arches of a Classical revival style. Above the 12-metre (39 ft) high nave and transept is an unvaulted coffered ceiling. Narrow vaults over the two aisles are so much lower than the nave that they function like ambulatories. The nave can hold 1,000 people. The baptismal font and statues have captions in English and Chinese.

The nave extends into a high vaulted apse (pictured right) at the east end. The aisles on either side of the nave are continued around the apse, making an ambulatory. Seven chandeliers are suspended from the ceiling over the main aisle. Beneath the chancel arch stands the high altar, under an ornate baldachin. The ciborium over the high altar bears the Latin words Venite Adoremus Dominum, "Come adore the Lord." Within the sanctuary stands a second, portable, altar, upon which most masses are celebrated.

According to Lonely Planet, "The interior is splendid, with white walls, gold piping and a marvellously painted apse."

St. Michael's Cathedral, Qingdao
St. Michael's Cathedral, Qingdao

The mural painted on the dome of the apse (pictured right) depicts Jesus seated on a cloud, red and golden rays radiating out of his golden halo. God the Father, pictured as a white-bearded man with triangular halo, looks down from a cloud above Jesus. A dove with a white halo, representing the Holy Spirit, flies just below God, wings outstretched, completing the Trinity. Above Jesus fly four cherubim. Seated to Jesus' right is Mary, his mother, and to his left Saint John the Baptist. On the same cloud as Jesus, three angels flank on each side. Slightly below Jesus, Mary, and John, two more flanking angels are depicted kneeling on their own clouds and swinging censers. Under the entire scene, a banner displays Gloria in Excelsis Deo.

In 2006, the construction and installation of a massive 12-by-12-metre (39 ft*39 ft) Jager & Brommer pipe organ (pictured at left) was commissioned for St. Michael's Cathedral at a cost of 700,000 euros, to be ready in time for the 2008 Olympics. The pipe organ sits upon the choir loft over the west front entrance.

The north transept contains three large murals featuring Jesus Christ: Jesus washing St. Peter's feet, the Sacred Heart, and the Pieta. The north transept contains the tombs of two bishops. One is of the first Vicar Apostolic of the Vicariate Apostolic of Qingdao, Bishop Georg Weig, SVD who supervised the construction of the cathedral. Bishop Weig's tombstone shows obvious signs of defacement, being chipped around the edges, and with broken stonework at its base. The other tomb contains part of the ashes of Bishop of Qingdao Paul Han Xirang, OFM, the rest having been buried in his hometown, Han Village, Yucheng County, Shandong Province.

The south transept also contains three large murals: the Holy child praying, St. Therese of Lisieux (patroness of missions), and the Nativity. The north and south arms of the transept each contain two altars.