The Holy Rosary Minor Basilica-Cathedral was the first Catholic church in Taiwan and one of the three major Catholic churches in Asia. As the starting place for Catholicism in Taiwan, the building was first given the title of cathedral, and then became a minor basilica after Taiwan’s retrocession from Japan. In terms of its architecture, the church has a magnificent design comprised of Gothic and Romanesque steeples, arched windows and rose windows. Its elegant exterior is particularly eye-catching, nestled as it is among themodern buildings nearby. It is truly one of the most beautifully decorated Catholic churches in Taiwan. For over 100 years, the church has served as a religious center for Catholic believers in southern Taiwan. The Holy Rosary Minor Basilica-Cathedral is therefore a building of both great religious and artistic value.
The Holy Rosary Minor Basilica-Cathedral is sometimes referreed to as the Rosary Church or the Cianjin Catholic Church. After the signing of the Treaty of Tianjin in 1858, missionaries were permitted to proselytise across Qing dynasty China, which included Taiwan.. Spanish Dominican friars Fernando Sainz and Angel Bofurull soon came to Taiwan to preach the gospel. Along with four local believers, they purchased the site of today’s cathederal in the Cianjin District of Kaohsiung and built a mission out of straw. A few years later, they began building a church using wetern-style red bricks, local mud-bricks, coral and concrete. Construction was completed in 1863. The church was named ‘The Holy Rosary Church’ after a statue of the Holy Mother was brought from Spain and enshrined in the church. The church was rebuilt between 1928 – 1931 in order to become a cathedral. In 1948, it was officialy elevated to cathedral status, and then later a minor basilica (a title of honor granted to special Catholic churches). The building then continued to undergo several renovations until 1995, when its wooden interior was rebuilt using steel. The design took on a mixture of Gothic and Romanesque styles, forming a strong and firm vertical appearance. The dedication ceremony to become a minor basilica was held in 1998. A few years later, in 2001, Holy Rosary Minor Basilica-Cathedral was named one of the top 10 religious sites in Kaohsiung and voted by the public as the number one historical landmark in Taiwan.
1Renaissance Architectural Design
The Holy Rosary Minor Basilica-Cathedral as it is today was constructed in 1928 under the supervision of Father Elias Fernandez (unknown – 1596). As part of the design, Gothic and Romanesque steeples were added to the church; a larger one in the middle, accompanied by two smaller steeples on either side. Towers soar into the sky from a heavy, solid base. The original wooden interior was rebuilt using steel material during the 1995 reconstruction. The current design now includes seven pairs of pillars on either side in order to form two aisles and a nave. The aisles are overshadowed by interior balconies, formed by pointed steel arches connected to the ceiling. The ceiling also displays the clear outlines of several round arches. The central altar is set beautifully on an octagonal base.
Above the keystone of the main round arch doorway sits a rectangular Chinese imperial plaque. In 1874, a priest of the Wanchin Church in Pingtung County asked Shen Baozhen (1820 – 1879), a Qing dynasty official, to appeal to the emperor for permission to do missionary work. After receving imperial approval, Shen Baozhen hand-carved two plaques to represent the emeperor’s will. While one plaque still remains at Wanchin Church, the other was given to the Holy Rosary Minor Basilica-Cathedral. According to the law at the time, imperial officials were required to dismount their horse and bow to the plaque in honor of the emperor. On either side of the plaque at Holy Rosary Minor Basilica-Cathedral are the coats of arms of Pope Francis and the current cardinal. The plaque was actually lost for a period of time following the 1928 reconstruction. Then, in 1972, after believers made donations to build an outdoor altar for St. Mary, the plaque was discovered during the digging of the foundations.
3Lady of the Holy Rosary Statue
The statue standing in the chancel is that of the Lady of the Holy Rosary. The statue was brought to Taiwan from Spain in 1863 after the construction of the church. It has been in the country for over 140 years. The altar and the shrine are both decorated with Chinese carvings.
The altar is a holy place where the Mass is held in honor of God. On the altar is written the abbreviation JHS, which stands for Jesus Hominum Salvator or ‘Jesus Christ,Savior of Mankind.’ According to Catholic teachings, the altar represents Jesus Christ and must be made of the best stone material available. The altar at Holy Rosary Minor Basilica-Cathedral is made from a single piece of Greek grey marble. The marble was cut into four parts—the surface, the main body, the columns, and the base. In 1996 the relic (physical remains or the personal effects of a saint) of St. John Gabriel Perboyre (1802 – 1840) was placed under the altar when he was declared a saint by Pope John Paul II that year. St. Perboyre was the first French missionary canonized by the Pope while working in China.
5Outdoor Altar of the Lady of Holy Rosary
In an effort to encourage others to worhip the Lady of Holy Rosary, believers donated to the church in 1972 for the building of an outdoor altar and accompanying statue. The statue’s design is similar to the one inside the church, with the Virgin Maryholding the infant Christ. The vivid design of the statue emanates a warm feeling of love and peace.
The tabernacle perserves the Eucharist (which symbolizes the body of Christ). The Eucharist is kept here for the adoration of the faithful and for distribution to the sick. The tabernacle in the Holy Rosary Minor Basilica-Cathedral was originally owned by the Church of Yanchao District. In 1974 priest He Zhen-hua gave the tabernacle to the Holy Rosary Church. The tabernacle weights over 100 kilograms and is magnificent in design.
While Mass is primarilyfor followers of the Catholic church, other visitors are welcome to tour the church freely at other times. Since volunteer guides are limited, visitors are encouraged to contact the church prior to their visit. Everyone is required to wear modest clothing and follow carefully tour guide lines. Taking photos is forbidden inside the church unless special permission is given. Couples who wish to have a priest conduct their wedding should make a request in advance.