Catholic Church, Qingdao. St. Michael’s Cathedral, also called the Zhejiang Road Catholic Church, and abbreviated by locals to simply the “Catholic Church” is the infamous Catholic church in Qingdao. This church 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.
We visited Qingdao’s Catholic Church on Monday morning after exploring PiChai Yuan, an amazing Chinese food and souvenir market located a couple of blocks away. It was a nice walk between the two sights, and we enjoyed wandering through the older parts of Qingdao. This is the area in which Elijah was born, so this part of the city will always hold special memories for us. Perhaps someday, when he is older, Eli will want to return to this part of Qingdao to see where he was born.
The cathedral stands atop a hill in the center of what was the original settlement of the city of Qingdao. The church is built in the historic style of German Romanesque. It is cruciform in plan, having a center flanked by a lower single aisle on either side, crossed by a transept, and with a semi-circular apse projecting at the east end — wow, all that fancy “architectural church talk”!
The road leading up to St. Michael’s Cathedral is lined with a variety of little cafes, stores and even a couple of hostels and bars. It seems that this is probably a great little spot during summer nights. There were a lot of people surrounding the book store on the left of the above picture.
When we reached the top of the hill, we realized that they wouldn’t let us into the church because we had flip-flops on. This is a regular occurrence here in China, and quite amusing to say the least. But honestly – IT IS SUMMER! Too hot and humid for closed shoes! Chinese people categorize flip-flops as “house shoes” (ie. like we would view slippers) and therefore they don’t think that wearing them outside is appropriate.
I’m really biting my tongue right now…
I guess we all have our views on what is “appropriate”. Funny!
The cathedral is 65.9 meters long and the transept (the arms of the cross) is 37.6-metre wide, with an exterior height of 18 meters. The towers are 56 meters in height, and have Rhenish helm spires, each topped by a 4.5-meter cross. One tower contains a single large bell, and the other three smaller bells. The building materials are reinforced concrete and granite, and the roofs are red tiles.
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 grounds surrounding the Catholic Church were swarming with wedding photographers and couples having their pictures taken. With all of the amazing spots available for wedding pictures in Qingdao, it must be hard to make a choice.
Just to the right of the entrance to the Catholic Church was an art gallery. Around it were tons of art students drawing and painting the cathedral. I was in awe! Of course drawing and painting are just two of the things that I LOVE to do… but I have never sat down to take a moment to be still and actually draw a building. I stood behind some of the young girls, admiring their talents. When they turned and saw me – a foreigner over their shoulder – they all gasped. Same reaction EVERY TIME!
We had spent some time with Mariska at PiChai Yuan, but she had to leave when we got to the Catholic Church. We said our goodbyes here, and decided to keep exploring. Elijah was asleep – no surprises there! Nana had joined us for the day, so the four of us continued on. We had lots to share with you from our Monday filled with explorations.