Sacred Heart Cathedral of Guangzhou

The Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (耶穌聖心主教座堂) also known as Sacred Heart Cathedral (聖心堂) is a Roman Catholic Cathedral in Guangzhou, South China. It is the seat of the Archbishop of Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Guangzhou.

The cathedral is located at 56 Yide Lu (or Yat Tak Road), Guangzhou. Being on the north bank of the Pearl River, the cathedral stands at the heart of the busy old district.


The site of the cathedral was originally the residence of the Viceroy of Guangdong and Guangxi Provinces (兩廣總督) in the Qing Dynasty. During the Second Opium War, the residence was completely destroyed and the viceroy Ye Mingchen (葉名琛) was captured by the British. Several years later, the Société des Missions Etrangères de Paris obtained the site under the terms of an edict issued by Emperor Daoguang (道光皇帝) in February,1846 which promised compensation for churches destroyed and properties taken from the mission. With financial support from Napoleon III and Catholics in France, Bishop Philippe François Zéphirin Guillemin, M.E.P. (明稽章), the first vicar apostolic of Guangdong, was in charge of the project. He invited two French architects, Vonutrin and Humbert, to design the cathedral and the Neo-Gothic design was approved in 1863. Guillemin himself didn't see the completion of the cathedral. He died in 1886 in Paris at the age of 72. The project was then under supervison of his successor, Bishop Augustin Chausse, M.E.P. (邵斯).

The cornerstones were laid on June 28 1863. The words "Jerusalem 1863" were engraved on the east cornerstone and the words "Roma 1863" on the west cornerstone, stating that the Roman Catholic Church had its origin in Jerusalem in the east and evovled in Rome in the west. From each city, one kilogram of soil was taken to be laid under the two cornerstones.

The construction of the cathedral met a lot of difficulties, many of which arose from the all-granite structure of the cathedral. All the granite stones were transported to the site from Kowloon, Hong Kong by sailing ships. The lack of experience of Chinese workers of building western cathedral presented great challenges of constructing a cathedral of this size by hands in the Far East. The progress was slow in the first few years and later, the French employed a Chinese worker named Cai Xiao (蔡孝) from Wuhua County as foreman. Cai Xiao had many years of experience in building houses in his hometown, which enabled him to adopt a lot of unique and creative methods. He had never left the site since being employed and the construction of the cathedral took most of his youth but was finished in his lifetime.

Tensions between the missionaries and the local people often existed. The construction of the cathedral and its affiliated school and hospital required the teardown of many houses and relocation of people, and when almost all houses in Guangzhou are not more than 2 storeys high in the 19th century, the high-rise cathedral and its pointed twin spires created an unusual scene in the city. Local people feared the cathedral would influence the city's Feng shui, and consequently bring disaster. This resulted in more conflicts between the two sides.

The cathedral was finally inaugurated in 1888 after 25 years of construction.


Covering an area of 2,754 square metres, it is the largest Roman Catholic church in the Guangzhou archdiocese and the largest Gothic cathedral in China and Southeast Asia. The cathedral is 35 metres wide, 78.69 metres long, and the twin towers rise as high as 58.5 metres. The west tower is a clock tower while the east tower serves as a bell tower, inside which there are five gigantic copper bells shipped in from France in the 19th century.

The cathedral's structure consists mainly of granite blocks. It is one of the four all-granite gothic cathedrals in the world, while the other three ones include the Notre Dame de Paris in France. For this reason, it is nicknamed "Stone House" (石室) by local people. "石室" is pronounced "Shishi" in Mandarin and "Seksat" in Cantonese, hence the name "Shishi Cathedral" in Mandarin or "Seksat Cathedral" in Cantonese.


Since its completion in 1888, the cathedral has undergone three big renovations. The first one was in 1920s, when then Archbishop Antoine-Pierre-Jean Fourquet (魏暢茂) replaced the timber roof, beams and staircases with concrete ones. The government spent RMB 150,000 for a second restoration in 1984 and 1986. The latest restoration was initiated in 2004 and finished in the autumn of 2006. The church spent RMB 3 million for the 19.64 million restoration project while the rest was covered by the government [cite web
url= |title=Sacred Heart Stone House Cathedral
publisher="Life of Guangzhou"
] . The aim of the restoration project was to solve the problem of leakage by rebuilding the whole roof and all the beams. New stained glass imported from Philippines was used to replace the broken 19th century French one. New lighting, audio and surveillance systems as well as a large mechanical clock on the west tower were also installed.

Mass schedule

Monday to Friday - 6:30a.m., 7:00a.m. (Cantonese)
Saturday - 7:30p.m. (Mandarin)
Sunday - 6:30a.m., 8:30a.m. (Cantonese), 10:30a.m. (Mandarin), 3:30p.m. (English)

See also

Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Guangzhou


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