A Visit to the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity at Gibraltar
In August of 2001 I visited Gibraltar and managed to spend some time at both King's Chapel and the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity. The official title of the cathedral is "The Cathedral for the Church of England Diocese of Gibraltar in Europe." This magnificent structure displays the prominent influence of Moorish revival architecture, exhibiting "horseshoe arches," splendid decorative elements and very beautiful columns. Originally, King's Chapel was set aside primarily for use by the military, so it was thought prudent to erect a new house of worship for the civilian sector of the local population. Work began on the cathedral in 1825, reaching completion in 1832, with the building consecrated in 1838 and assigned cathedral status in 1842. The building sustained significant damage in April 1951 when the RFA Bedenham accidentally exploded in Gibraltar harbor. The RFA Bedenham was a Naval armament carrier which was offloading depth charges to a smaller craft when one of the depth charges ignited, causing a fire which spread and caused a violent explosion. Both King's Chapel and the Cathedral have been restored and are today in an excellent state of preservation.
A Visit to King's Chapel at Gibraltar, August 2001
I spent 30 to 45 minutes in the splendor of King's Chapel, admiring the spectacular architecture and observing all of the marvelously decorative elements in this very beautiful place of worship. One can almost feel the pulse of history which courses through these glorious surroundings, as if in one moment one may envision the many years of service provided in this remarkable space. As the building was badly damaged during the Great Siege of Gibraltar from 1779 to 1783, it is a wonder that these walls and ceilings have not only survived but also been the dedicated object of considerable renewal, preservation and restoration. During my visit here I was not disturbed by anyone and spent the entire time in quiet repose and methodical thought, glad of my opportunity to see this Chapel in person and to glean its importance in the history of Gibraltar, its people and its cultural surroundings.
A Visit to King's Chapel at Gibraltar, August 2001
In my last post I mentioned visiting King's Chapel and the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity at Gibraltar in August of 2001. Here is another journal entry dated Friday, 31 August, written while I was living and working in Algeciras, Spain with an international team. "The windows and ceilings were bathed in light at the Chapel and the Cathedral. Both had interestingly designed pipe organs. I prayed at the Chapel. At both Churches I was the only one there. Time for reflection and encouragement!"
History of King's Chapel
The Chapel adjoins the Governor of Gibraltar's residence, The Convent. Originally the building was part of a Franciscan friary, with the Chapel built in the 1530's. The Chapel was given to the Church of England by the British after the capture of Gibraltar in 1704. Military memorials and heraldic flags adorn the interior, with many memorials dedicated to members of the British Armed Forces. There are also tombs and memorials to past governors and their wives. The building was badly damaged during the Great Siege of Gibraltar (1779-83), and also damaged more recently in April, 1951 by an accidental explosion of a ship in Gibraltar harbor. Extensive restoration has been made with new stained glass windows installed in 1952 and repairs to the remarkably decorative ceilings and walls. The Chapel is used by the Army, Royal Navy, and Royal Air Force and is open to the public for services and visitation.
A Fascinating Connection with Lord Cardigan
In his 1953 book entitled "The Reason Why," author Cecil Woodham-Smith relates an interesting bit of history regarding Lord Cardigan, Major-General James Thomas Brudenell (1797-1868), 7th Earl of Cardigan, KCB. This officer led the Charge of the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava in October of 1854, during the Crimean War. Lord Cardigan commanded the Light Cavalry Brigade, under the direction of Commander-in-Chief General Lord Raglan and Cavalry Commander Lt-General Lord Lucan. Woodham-Smith writes that Lord Cardigan's second marriage took place at the Chapel when he married Miss Adeline de Horsey, relating that "...in the course of a cruise in Lord Cardigan's magnificent yacht the marriage took place in September, 1858, at the Military Chapel, Gibraltar; Mr. de Burgh was a witness." Further historical information on Lord Cardigan and the Light Brigade can be obtained through consulting Mark Adkin's book entitled "The Charge: The Real Reason Why the Light Brigade Was Lost" published in 1996, and Terry Brighton's book entitled "Hell Riders: The Truth about the Charge of the Light Brigade" published in 2004, containing many first-person accounts.
Journal Entry: Friday, 31 August, 2001 Algeciras, Spain
"We went yesterday to Gibraltar on an Operation Transit sponsored tour (Mediterranean Crossing). It was picturesque, with vivid surveys of the spectacular vistas from the high promontories of the Rock. I enjoyed my companions, Debbie, Christy, Carol, Amy and Leslie. Our friends from Costa Rica (Carlos, Junio and Karla) couldn't go because they had forgotten their passports. I like the military flavor of Gibraltar. One of the rock monkeys climbed up on me and sat on my head! I had a most peaceful opportunity to visit King's Chapel and Holy Trinity Cathedral. Such divine architecture and heavenly light!"
Exploring the Atmosphere at Gibraltar
There are spacious open-air markets and restaurants as you first enter into the commercial district. The original military barracks have been converted into retail space, galleries, gift shops and museums. One can watch glass being blown into thousands of shapes at a glass-works factory just off the main market square. The streets lead into narrow alleyways which still afford occasional glimpses of the sea which lies beyond the densely populated areas. I asked our tour guide, Charlie, what the current population might be (in 2001). He thought about 30,000. The landing strip at the airport is fairly short and tourists must walk across the runway in order to visit the commercial district. The British officials at the entrance gate are very efficient and courteous at processing and checking passports and handling typical tourist questions.
Breathtaking Sights and a Vivid Sense of History
Altogether I enjoyed immensely my time spent here, seeking some out-of-the-way places and gaining an appreciation for the culture of this fascinating place. You can spend hours or even days exploring the many faceted features and pleasures of Gibraltar, gaining special insights from the local population and from those who work here. It is upon the heights that I most fondly remember the views which can take one's breath away. As you look out upon the vast blue waters along the far horizon, it is easy to imagine the historical significance of this geological location on the world's map. It is the Rock which, after all these many Centuries, still stands!