Friday, April 14, 2017

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS: A PARK, TWO CHURCHES, AND A BAKERY

We disembarked at about 8:15 AM in Basseterre, the capital of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis (two separate islands whose two names together are the official name of the country) and one of the oldest towns in the West Indies. Based on the modern, flambouyant port, you wouldn't guess this city was founded by the French in 1627:
The British kicked the French out and took over in 1727, and St. Kitts became an important part of the triangular slave trade. That's not all it's famous for. Alexander Hamilton spent part of his youth on this island. It's a place with a lot of interesting history.

We set out on foot to see some of the main sites in Basseterre, starting with Independence Square. Back in the days of the slave trade, this square was the site of the slave market. It was rebranded in subsequent years as the city's political and social center, and then rebranded again in 1983 when St Kitts and Nevis attained their independence from Great Britain and gave it the ironic name of "Independence Square."

A close-up of the strange fountain:

On one side of the park is the Catholic Immaculate Conception Co-Cathedral. A "co-cathedral" shares the function of being the bishop's seat with another cathedral, but I haven't been able to figure out which cathedral is this one's other half:

Built in 1928, this church looks much older than it actually is (like a lot of us):


A palm that looks like an ostrich's feathery tail adorns the front of the building. It is called a "traveler's palm" and generally grows in an east-west orientation, giving travelers a rudimentary compass:


The interior is quiet, peaceful, and neutral--very UN-Caribbean:

It wasn't long before my observant sister noticed a stray umbrella someone had inadvertantly left on a ledge. My sister has a history of filching forgotten umbrellas (see story here), but to do it in a CATHEDRAL? Luckily, she had remembered to bring her own on this trip, and the umbrella remained on the ledge, awaiting its owner's return:

Perhaps she was swayed by this painting of good Saint Christopher hanging in that alcove. She may have interpreted his message as: "Be good, and an angel will be your umbrella."

Or was it this depiction of Mary and the prayer request for "us sinners"?

There are lots of reminders to "be good" in this cathedral:

A couple of the statues in the cathedral have carved bas relief pieces at the base:

Is the statue on the left Jesus as an adult holding himself as a baby?  That would go along with the two carvings on the base: On the left is Mary and Joseph and the infant Jesus fleeing to Egypt (I love the guardian angel overhead) . . .

. . . and on the right, Jesus is shown as a grown man, perhaps raising Lazarus from the dead?

The statue of Mary on the right has these two reliefs on the base: the Annunciation . . . 

. . . and Mary being crowned the Queen of Heaven:

Nearby is a sculpture of Christ being baptized by John:

The altar and stained glass in the apse show some of the color I had already come to expect in a Caribbean church:

It was hard to get good pictures without disrupting the worshipers, but Bob got these two of the stained glass windows behind the altar. I absolutely love the Caribbean look of the Christ child and Mary:

In comparison, these stained glass windows on a side wall seem rather ordinary:

However, I love the center medallion:


Memorials to a four-year-old boy and a priest who served the people of St. Kitts for over twenty years made me feel sad:

On the other hand, although I'm not a Catholic, this face always makes me happy:


The window in the organ loft casts an eerie blue ghost shadow:

We climbed the stairs to the organ loft, where I was surprised to see a set of conga drums. I'm pretty sure conga drums have never sat next to the organ at the church I attend. I'd like to be in a service when these are played:

A wooden ladder leads to the nethermost regions of the belfry, and a very unsophisticated set of instructions guides the bellringer:

Time to move on to our next spot. We crossed through Independence Park . . .

. . . noting Independence House, where slaves were supposedly kept in the cellar prior to their being auctioned off in the park:

This alleyway has real potential to be a beautiful spot. I can imagine sipping a cold lemonade at a small table in there. Too bad about those "NO ENTRY!" signs on either side of the arch:

Ah, those crayola colors again:

Our next stop was St. George's Anglican Church. Because of fires and earthquakes and other natural disasters, this is the fourth or fifth church that has sat on this unlucky plot of ground. The current church was consecrated in 1859, but then it was gutted by fire seven years later. It was restored and ready to go again by 1869. It's been damaged several times since then by hurricanes, but never to the point that it had to be completely rebuilt. I think the message is pretty clear: DON'T GO TO THIS CHURCH DURING A STORM.



There was a pine tree adorned with Christmas lights in the churchyard. Nice. Less work next December:

The rear churchyard doubles as a graveyard, and most of the stones look like they've seen a few hurricanes:


Considering the history of destruction at this church, I wouldn't want to be buried here, but nevertheless a few of the markers are of relatively recent vintage.

The cool, quiet interior of St. George's was lit only by the light filtering through the stained glass:

At the front looking towards the back:

A crucifix hangs somewhat threateningly from the dome. The pulpit, on the other hand, has a dainty lace-fringed top:

Lots of great symbolism in the coat of arms:



The beautiful pipe organ, placed against an interior wall of the main room rather than in a loft at the rear (definitely better protected in case of a hurricane), was installed in 1872:

A chair leaning against the organ console is labeled with the words: "Donated by: Liamaiga Funeral Home," which indicates of one of the main uses of this church:

I like this slender silver and wood crucifix hanging on a column:

. . . and the beautiful carved half-wall that defines the perimenter of the choir seats:

The first of my two favorite things in the church is the stained glass windows:

In the nativity scene below, I'm not sure who the two men are who are worshiping the Baby Jesus. The one standing must be Joseph, but who is the man kneeling?

Wonderfully individualized faces reflect the personalities of the characters:

Aren't they beautiful?

My other favorite thing is the church tower:

We paid an extra $5.00 for the privilege of climbing steep, narrow stairs, which eventually give way to steep wooden stairs, and which end in a series of four or five steep ladders. Did I mention that it is steep?

Time for a rest:

Eventually we reached the belfry:

Put a boy by a bell--even a GROWN boy--and he's bound to ring it:
(We were a little afraid that when we came out of the church, the police would be waiting for him, but luckily they were busy elsewhere.)

Eventually, we made it to the top of the tower:

The view from the top was the best in town. We could see our ship far off in the distance:



There's the Catholic church we had just visited (lower right):

It was windy on top, so we didn't stay too long. Going down was as bad as going up:

As we walked around the churchyard after exiting the church, a wonderful aroma penetrated our senses, and we traced it to the American Bakery across the street:

Curious about what an "American" bakery on St. Kitts would sell, we made our way over there:

The bakery was fairly crowded, so we waited for our turn:

There were some interesting, unfamiliar pastries in the display case:

We ended up buying a beautifully browned roll filled with some kind of fish. We debated whether the woman behind the counter had said it was "salt fish" or "sword fish" (there is a strong Caribbean accent to deal with), but after researching it a bit at home, we decided it was "salt fish." (See this article for a description of what salt fish is.)

I thought it was pretty good--a bit like a mild tuna fish sandwich.

We also purchased a slice of pizza that was topped with, among other things, broccoli and cauliflower:
Not bad! The American Bakery was definitely worth a stop.  Travel is all about paradigm shifts, and at the American Bakery I was reminded that "American" doesn't always refer to "United States." There are two American continents and a wide variety of countries (and flavors) in them. It's fun to be reminded of that occasionally.

3 comments:

  1. I think St. Kitts was my favorite of all the islands. Partly because we were completely on our own, following our own itinerary; partly because of my family connection to the island (as dubious as that is); and partly because it does not feel like a tourist destination, it is people living authentic lives.

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  2. Hide the conga drums, here come the Cannons!

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  3. I was also surprised at the young age of the first church. I was very surprised I was able to resist the temptation to add to my umbrella collection. The salt fish was quite memorable. I'm waiting for you or Bob to try it at home and post a recipe.

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